Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals is one of the better books I've read lately.  My favorite biographies use their subjects as a way to explore larger issues – the rough-and-tumble of politics in the first volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, issues of race and the professionalization of sports in Randy Roberts biography of Jack Johnson, etc.  The discussion of leadership in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book struck a couple of cords with me. 

Team of Rivals

First, there are obvious contrasts to be drawn between the leadership styles of Lincoln with George Bush.  How different would the world be today if George Bush had chosen more independent, stronger voices with which to surround himself?  Would a Bush cabinet that included rivals such as McCain have made different choices?  (Although, to be fair, recent news stories seem to show that some departed Bush cabinet members, such as John Ashcroft, may deserve more credit for independence than they have been given.)  While I doubt the overall direction of policy would have been that different, I suspect the policies might have been implemented with more competence. 

Second, as we continue to suffer through this extended presidential election cycle, with both parties fielding lots of candidates, I wonder if a similar team could be assembled from either party.  I doubt that Bill Richardson, for example, will be able to win the Democratic party's nomination, but his resume makes him an intriguing choice for the cabinet in a Democratic administration.  Could Mitt Romney and John McCain coexist in the same Republican administration?  All kinds of intriguing possibilities and combinations come to mind.  Right now, the Democratic field  looks like a deeper pool of talent to me than the Republican field, but there is a long way to go.

3 thoughts on “Team of Rivals

  1. It is interesting how the primary system affects the eventual choices we get to make in the national elections. At first blush, it appears that we tend to nominate candidates who appeal to the hard-core, doctrinaire base of either party, leaving moderating voices out. However, I imagine if we had direct national elections, we probably would hear less, rather than more, from those moderating voices. At least with the convention system some differing views get to be heard by the larger party.

  2. If by “direct national elections” you mean either a national primary for each party or elimination of the electoral college, I tend to agree. If there are no relatively inexpensive contests, only the best funded candidates would ever be heard. While we’re already partially down that road, the move toward “Giga Tuesday”
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Tuesday#2008)
    is only going to exacerbate the advantages of the well-financed candidates.

  3. I started to read “Team of Rivals” last year, but I was in a funk. I’m back into the swing of things and will probably check it out again (although it’s a loooong book.)
    I did read “Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush” by Fred Barnes and it was a pretty good read. It goes into Ownership Society and to some extent, why Bush doesn’t back down and keeps slugging away at what he believes to be the direction forward.
    Public financing is a intruiging idea, but w/o all of the private money to use (democrats have raised more money than republicans at this point) I wonder how much advertising could be done by each candidate. Advertising should not be what gets people’s attention, they should be watching the debates (I have a debate countdown calendar on my site, FYI.)

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