By Tom Allon
One of the greatest political books ever, “A Team of Rivals,” by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, tells the compelling and relevant tale of President Abraham Lincoln’s unprecedented hiring of his presidential rivals to serve in his administration.
Not before nor since have we seen such a blatant act of humility and bipartisanship that ended up subsuming Lincoln’s ego for the greater good of our country.
We saw a microcosm of this tactic in President Barack Obama’s appointment of his once Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, to be U.S. secretary of state during his first term.
That turned out well for both parties. Hillary worked hard, repaired U.S. relations around the world, gained huge foreign policy experience and positioned herself as the frontrunner for 2016.
Obama, who wisely did not let past political feuds cloud his management vision, got a savvy and well-known foreign policy partner who helped him execute a tough but coherent global policy — and, we’re told, Hillary was one of the main proponents of carrying out the Osama Bin Laden raid despite Vice President Joe Biden’s reported reluctance.
In New York, we now almost have the dawning of a new mayoral administration, and there are a number of people who ran for the highest office who could be helpful to the new mayor.
Although it’s unlikely to happen, imagine if city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wins Nov. 5 and reaches across the aisle and picks his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, to be first deputy mayor or deputy mayor for operations. Lhota has already done one of those jobs, so even if de Blasio decides to turn to him for help, it is unlikely Lhota wants to be second in command again — particularly for a mayor whose experience and ideas he vigorously challenged during the campaign.
Would City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) make a good deputy mayor just as Hillary made a good secretary of state? Probably, but that move is also unlikely. Quinn represents a link to the Bloomberg years and de Blasio is going to distance himself from his predecessor and anybody who supported him as Quinn did. It’s too bad: Quinn is a hardworking public servant and would probably do well in the right role.
How about Bill Thompson or city Comptroller John Liu? It’s hard to imagine Thompson wanting an appointed position after he was comptroller for eight years and ran the former city Board of Education for a number of years. But it’s a shame to lose his wealth of experience.
Liu is ideologically similar to de Blasio, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him to be a deputy mayor or an agency head. But here again it is more likely that Liu will decamp to the private sector to make money to support his family while he strategizes his next move in public life.
Adolfo Carrion is a smart, pragmatic man who knows a lot about urban policy — why not make him head of the city Department of Housing? He could help the next mayor a lot in that role. But once again, it’s a stretch to expect if asked that he would take an appointed position.
Sal Albanese is a wise man who could still serve our city well, but there were too many fireworks during the campaign between him and de Blasio to imagine them working together. And John Catsimatidis is a great New Yorker who yearns to make the city a better place. Hopefully, de Blasio will find some unofficial role for the candidate who called himself “Cats,” because he has some good ideas and experience.
And finally, there’s Anthony Weiner, but it’s difficult to picture him working as a second banana in city government.
So, any chance for a team of rivals in city government in 2014? It doesn’t seem likely, but wouldn’t it send a great message to Washington and the rest of the world if a 6-foot-5 mayor who bears some resemblance to Lincoln stole a page from one of our greatest president’s playbook?
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at email@example.com.