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Obama's Cabinet Might More Resemble Lincoln Than Kennedy For Sound Cognitive Reasons

So far it seems as though President-Elect Barack Obama's cabinet selections may include a diversity in opinions that far more resembles Abraham Lincoln's sense of inclusiveness than the "groupthink" and yesman" mentality of the Kennedy cabinet. And this might be a very good thing for sound historical, cognitive and psychological reasons.

When the Kennedy Administration was hit with the Bay Of Pigs disaster aftermath in Cuba in 1961 in which an army of antiCastro forces sought to overthrow the government of the Cuban dictator, and were killed or captured because American forces failed to back them up as was expected, the fiasco was blamed on a cognitive reasoning problem known as "groupthink" that pervaded the Kennedy Administration.

President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General, tended to dominate a cabinet comprised of loyal supporters who often failed to question their premises on issues, evaluate or critically test all evidence or analyze all of the available information. And this led to the Bay Of Pigs fiasco because there was a quick consensus reached due to the dominance of the Kennedy brothers as well as the nearly submissive sense of loyalty among the cabinet to merely accept their opinions.

The aftermath of the Bay Of Pigs fiasco led John Kennedy to address the nation and accept full responsibility for the mess. But it also became an important learning experience for this administration to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 with far better results. But the fact of the matter is that if Castro had been removed in 1961 with the U.S. Marines backing up the Cuban antiCastro forces, then the world would not have been pushed to the brink of nuclear war in the first place. Properly dealing with an important early crisis in an administration can avoid larger problems later. And this appears to be an important part of the reasoning that the diverse Obama cabinet may be seeking to avoid.

So far it appears as though Barack Obama wants to be much more like Abraham Lincoln who included some of his opponents and others of the opposition party in his administration in order to reflect a diversity of opinions in which options will be tested, analyzed and evaluated before a consensus is reached. If anything, this displays a much more mature way of arriving at a consensus than the flawed "groupthink" analytic line of reasoning where dominant personalities set the tone for the group's conclusions.

Perhaps the Obama Administration is not only looking to the best minds to improve the economy, where solutions can be very complex, and some programs may not work as intended and need to be modified such as in the early years of failed attempts of FDR to deal with resolving the issues of the Great Depression. And avoiding groupthink might also either head off or else help to resolve any potential foreign policy crisis issues as well.

What is so encouraging is that Barack Obama has the self-confidence to find strong personalities such as Hillary Clinton to possibly become Secretary Of State, which is a very important position, as well as to reach out to his election opponent, John McCain as well. All of this proves that Mr. Obama is a very smart man who will rule wisely and make every attempt to succeed at goals. This demonstrates a real maturity of reasoning and cognitive skills that was sorely missing in some presidents such as Richard Nixon where his own lack of self-confidence and insecurities became his ultimate undoing.

Barack Obama wants to achieve results. And he wants to put together an administration using the best possible minds and rule in a centrist manner that gets real results and a real change of direction from what hasn't worked before. There is good reason to trust in this.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (3)


You express a tremendous degree of optimism given that he hasn't actually named anyone yet. The press has played Clinton up, and there are unconfirmed reports about Holder for AG. The romanticism associated with Lincoln's cabinet, most of it attributable to Goodwin's coffee table history of the period, is at odds with many other historian's views that Lincoln's cabinet was almost completely dysfunctional and filled with intrigue (See Pinsker's piece in the LA Times today).

Frankly I think the selection of Hillary represents a less than thoughtful choice, given the talent available for him to pick from. She isn't even a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You have two individuals in Holbrooke and Richardson who both have much better credentials, and that is just for starters. This looks far more like a political maneuver than a careful decision about what is best for the country.

And, by the way, a President doesn't rule, he governs.


I've seen "rule" thrown around a couple of times now by Obama's people and his supporters - I find it a bit scary. It's not just a matter of semantics. He is not our ruler!


Wow. First he was like Jesus, only better, and now he's a modern day Lincoln. All without ever actually doing anything.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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