Presidents fight two wars. One to get elected. And one that starts the morning after the election. Only they may not know about the second war.
Naturally, Barack Obama may think his authority (in the legal sense) as president gives him power to run his own government. But authority is a long way from control. President Obama will never hear a whisper of 99% of the plots and decisions that go on in his government. But Washington is full of congressmen, lobbyists and insiders who will and are determined to get control of their piece of his administration – to pick, say, the assistant secretary in charge of procurement in the Pentagon.
After Reagan was elected in 1980, contented after working to elect a president who would change government, I sat back and contemplated all the good works about to be undertaken. Two months later I learned there was a thing in Washington called ‘The Transition Team’ hard at work hiring people to run Reagan’s government.
So I went to take a look and found, except for a cohort of conservative policy wonks, a legion of Washington insiders who did not share (beyond offering lip service) Reagan’s vision.
Reagan won the revolution in November. By Christmas a good bit of it was already over. We had lost the second war (to control the government) before we even knew it was being fought.
Which brings me to this ‘Team of Rivals’ idea. Ask yourself a simple question: Who benefits? The answer: Obama’s rivals. The people who opposed him. What a brilliant stratagem for the Clintonistas: They convince the world it is noble of Obama to appoint his opponents. It is, they say, Lincoln-esque. (Except it didn’t really work for Lincoln.) Then they start filling the jobs.
Hillary lost the first war but, by all appearances, she’s winning the second.
Obama’s chief of staff worked for Bill Clinton.
So did his treasury secretary.
His attorney general.
His U.N. ambassador.
The list goes on and on – ending, now, with Hillary herself.
Barack Obama may be learning an old lesson. Revolutions are won in voting booths. But pass away in the halls of government.
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