I read Doris Goodwin's new tome, "Team of Rivals" over the Thanksgiving holiday (I have a strong dislike for my immediate family) and it was really good. It is basically the story of how Abe Lincoln appointed to his cabinet men he had run against to become the President. I had no idea that Abe rolled like that.
These men (William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates) were all nationally known and presidential. These accomplished men were extremely angry at being beaten by a relatively unknown. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their respect as well.
It's an incredible story because Abe was able to forge alliances with these men to win the most important war this country has ever fought. Abe could have picked campaign contributors or partisans, but instead he picked the men who deserved the job the most. Abe transcended personal bitterness in order to run a country.
As we all know, this isn't the case anymore. I'm not going to use my penultimate post to bash the Bush adminstration-because we all know about former heads of Arabian Horseman Federation becoming FEMA Directors- instead our entire society needs to be examined. When did we start to sacrifice the best route of managing a country for helping out the few? There seems to be little honor in political appointees anymore. Would the U.S. have been able to wage war in Iraq or the Balkans with a more diversified cabinet? I definitely don't believe that groupthink would have been as prevalent in the run up to the Iraq war.
I'm not advocating a constitutional amendment addressing the issue of political appointees, but government would benefit so much more if the right men/women were picked for the job over the most convenient.