Obama’s 'team of rivals' Cabinet living out the president's 'no drama' mantra

Obama’s 'team of rivals' Cabinet living out the president's 'no drama' mantra

Despite some memorable slip-ups, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Queen Elizabeth will need to call upon her charm for Biden's visit Is Biden the new FDR or LBJ? History says no MORE's Cabinet has dodged controversy in 2009, continuing the president's campaign theme of "no drama Obama."

Political analysts and administration officials say Obama's Cabinet has avoided the public squabbling and missteps of prior administrations because Obama picked the right people for the job, beginning with Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE.


Biden, officials say, has been largely instrumental in helping ease tensions between Cabinet members, serving as an intermediary between the secretaries on both the foreign policy and domestic fronts.

The vice president can "serve the president as a useful go-between, settling disputes or channeling information," one administration official said.

Obama hit some snags as he tried to assemble his team, with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) withdrawing their nominations.

But analysts say Obama's much-hyped "team of rivals," including appointing bitter campaign rival and former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be secretary of State, has not stirred tension in the administration.

"The whole 'team of rivals' business was oversold from the beginning," said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University and an expert on the presidency.

Baker said Obama's Cabinet officials have not been ideologically divided, and they were suited for the jobs with which they were tasked.

"There are no political hacks in this group," Baker said. "That often happens with Cabinets, that people are put in there specifically because they are people who are strong political connections.

"[Obama] just picked the right people for the job,” he said.

Added an administration official: "There is so little of the classic infighting among members of the president’s Cabinet not just because he picked people who play well in the sandbox together, but because of the tone and expectations he set.

"Competence was his top priority," the official continued. "Other factors were obviously weighed, but non-ideological competence was what mattered to him most."

There have been some bumps in the road, however.

Weeks after Obama was sworn in, Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderDemocratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill Biden: 'Simply wrong' for Trump DOJ to seek journalists' phone records Returning the ghost of Eric Holder to the Justice Department MORE attracted headlines when he suggested that the administration was moving forward with plans to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), along with a few Republicans, has recently called on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in April apologized after a report from her department suggested that right-wing extremists may recruit veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in February floated a proposal of a mileage-based tax to pay for highway projects. The White House swiftly shot down the idea.

Similar to George W. Bush’s administration, major announcements come from the White House — not from departments and agencies within the administration.

Obama’s reliance on so-called White House “czars” on policies ranging from energy to healthcare to executive compensation has triggered bipartisan criticism from lawmakers.

It has also empowered the White House to advance Obama’s agenda. Carol Browner and Nancy-Ann DeParle played integral roles in moving climate change and healthcare reform, respectively.

Sources on and off Capitol Hill have noted that DeParle has played a larger role in overhauling the nation’s healthcare system than has Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusWorking for lasting change Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan MORE. Yet Sebelius played a leading role in the administration’s effort to combat swine flu. Having both DeParle and Sebelius on Obama’s team was key to dealing with both high-profile matters.

A senior administration official said Biden's influence on the Cabinet, while largely due to longtime relationships, can be broken down by his portfolio: national security and the implementation of the $787 billion stimulus package.

As expected, Biden has had his gaffes, including his July comment that the administration “misread the economy.” But Obama knew that Biden would make verbal mistakes from time to time when he selected him as his running mate.

Obama gave Biden the authority to hold Cabinet meetings on the stimulus with pertinent secretaries about every other week, an official said, and he has regular meetings on Afghanistan and Iraq with Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones.

Keeping Gates on as secretary of Defense rankled some Democrats on Capitol Hill who were eager to set a new course on U.S. strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s relationship with Gates is said to be strong. In March, Gates said Obama is “somewhat more analytical” than his former boss, President George W. Bush.