President Lincoln composed a cabinet of big personalities with contrasting ideas and perspectives - a tactic crudely articulated 100 years later by President Johnson's preference for having his enemies "inside the tent peeing out, [rather] than outside the tent peeing in."
Lincoln's move was admirable because it incorporated three of his competitors for the Republican nomination into his administration for the good of the country. He believed it was important to foster an atmosphere of debate, but also recognized the chance to silence division within his party.
This appears to be the overall approach of President-elect Obama, who, with the potential nomination of Sen. Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, will have taken the first step in assembling his own team of rivals.
This move would be eerily similar to Lincoln's choice of William Seward to head the State Department. Like Clinton, Seward was a senator from New York who lost the presidential nomination to a youngster from Illinois after being the presumptive nominee.
Obama already began integrating his rivals with the choice of Joe Biden as his number two. Besides finding a spot for Clinton, the next step might be to slide in Gov. Bill Richardson as the Secretary of Labor. Richardson, who is still a possibility for state, has a strong populist background that makes him a likely fit in labor, but there is also the possibility his U.N. experience, executive leadership, and border-state credentials would make him a logical pick for homeland security.
It is doubtful that Chris Dodd will give up his Senate seat to serve in the new administration. Yet, as chairman of the banking committee, Dodd could run the treasury if he wanted to tackle the economic crisis.
The other Democratic contenders won't be brought into the fold, as John Edwards lost the right to be Attorney General when he couldn't keep it in his pants, Dennis Kucinich only makes sense at NASA because he's seen a UFO and looks like he recently got off of one, and Mike Gravel needs to be returned to the nursing home he escaped from.
Beyond bringing together Democrats, Obama needs to reach across the aisle, an act that would require a nomination like former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, an environmental leader, as the head of the EPA. This move would signal Obama's intentions for a new way in Washington.
This message would gain further traction if Republican Robert Gates stays on as Secretary of Defense. Gates is popular on both sides of the aisle and has a pragmatic approach in keeping with Obama's view of the world. If Gates doesn't stick around, Obama should nominate retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who is a black sheep within his own party on foreign affairs and has traveled abroad with Obama.
This type of cabinet necessitates the need for Obama to be a leader in the fashion of Lincoln, as there is always the risk he could be overwhelmed by these potent advisors. Therefore, he needs to welcome contrarian opinions, but at the end of the day he must demonstrate the fortitude to be his own man and keep the troops in line.
The presidency is never an easy task, and while a diverse cabinet may not make it any easier, it does engender the possibility that this White House could be one of the best.
Dave Lombardo is a senior political science major, who'd dissent too if he could be on B'Obama's O-Team. He'd be Sergeant. B.A. Lombardus.