Avoiding the Clashes and the Leaks

The Obama White House will be chock full of big personalities and, naturally, some fairly large egos.


The Obama White House will be chock full of big personalities and, naturally, some fairly large egos. It could be a recipe for some early disharmony—and for the most dreaded of all things in Obamaland—leaks.Between the personalities Obama has assembled and his stated governing style, Stephen Hess is one who sees the potential for trouble. Hess has worked in two Republican administrations, and he has advised on presidential transitions dating back to 1960 when he was an aide to outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower. He's also the author of "What Do We Do Now? A Workbook For the President-Elect." It holds recommendations on everything from decorating the oval office to managing staff. "It's a crapshoot," says Hess. "Nobody really knows with this set of personalities until we see them in action."President-Elect Obama’s “team of rivals,” as some have called his cabinet posts thus far, might be great on paper, but big personalities don’t always play well together. For one, the selection of Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state is likely to marginalize the foreign policy role of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden who should quickly tire of ceremonial vice presidential photo-ops. When he does, don’t expect Secretary of State Clinton to offer him a chance to shape foreign affairs. It’s just one of many relationships that holds the potential to be contentious. Hess also notes Obama's style of encouraging debate and deliberation among his top advisors. "[Obama] has what amounts to an academic model," says Hess. "He conducts business the same way you might have an intellectual conversation. Everyone is heard and disagreements encouraged."It's not necessarily a bad thing, says Hess, but it holds the potential to create two major problems. For one, it slows down the decision-making process, and two, "it encourages leaks," says Hess. "That's going to happen and that starts to create the impression of an indecisive president, which [Obama] really doesn't want."The early days of the Obama administration will surely test that well-deserved reputation for discipline earned during a long presidential campaign. Shane D’Aprile is web editor at Politics magazine. sdaprile@politicsmagazine.com


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