Found this nice op-ed piece this morning called What’s so special about a team of rivals, By James Oakes. It’s the perfect antidote to the sloppy thinking circling the now cliched phrase ‘team of rivals’.
Another nice observation I heard on NPR last night was that every cabinet choice leaves the half dozen candidates you didn’t pick miffed with you. And if you pick the rival, there is some powerful candidate within your party or staff who will never view you in the same way again. All choices have opportunity cost and there’s no perfect way to select something as complex as a cabinet.
I confess I haven’t read Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals. And I do buy the nugget of the theory that selecting people who have diverse opinions, even in some cases opposing ones, can be a useful force if the energy of those tensions can be converted into the positive: better decisions or better policies. But to do that means picking very special kinds of rivals. Rivals with whom intelligent discourse and deep trust are possible, which is very hard to find.