First, all incoming members of the Cabinet will be required to attend a week long team-building exercise in southern Illinois beginning January 12th. Over the course of three days members of the administration will take turns standing in for Stephen Douglas in a reenactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates from the 1858 Senate campaign, with Obama playing Lincoln's part. The debate periods will alternate with rounds of rail-splitting to build physical strength.
Additionally, in a much more visible effort, Obama has
instituted a dress code for all Cabinet meetings which will require the donning of a Lincoln style beard. When entertaining visiting dignitaries and on official state visits overseas, the beard will be augmented with the wearing of a stovepipe hat.
A spokesman for the Obama transition told reporters, "Barack understands the importance of the Lincoln administration and intends to use the similarities to his own presidency to their full effect." He went on to point out that even Fox News has gotten in on the act of comparing Obama and Lincoln saying, "if Fox News is making these comparisons, there is no reason the President-Elect should shy away from embracing the Lincoln parallel."
Reached for comment, Labor Secretary-designate Hilda Solis said, "the rail-splitting seems like a great way to work off those added holiday pounds, but the beards seem like they will be kinda scratchy."
So far, Republican reaction to the announcement has been rather muted out of fear of seeming to denigrate Lincoln, one of America's favorite Presidents.
When Obama announced Hillary Clinton as his choice for Secretary of State it was widely predicted theirs would be a turbulent relationship. Up until now this has not been the case. Implementation of Obama's dress code could change all of that as many in Clinton's camp, including the Senator herself, are said to be fuming over the announcement.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior Clinton aide said, "doesn't he [Obama] know there hasn't been a pantsuit designed yet to complement a stovepipe hat?" They went on to say, "after the Sarah Palin clothes flap, there is just no way Hillary can go out and buy a whole new wardrobe just to accommodate this mandate."
There is one argument that may allow Mrs. Clinton to avoid the dress requirements while still allowing all parties to avoid public humiliation. Some people close to Mrs. Clinton have begun floating the notion that the stovepipe hat could be a hindrance to diplomatic relations, especially in Asia. Since the traditional Asian greeting includes a bow, there is a fear that when bending over the hat could actually tumble off of one's head with the potential to strike the person being greeted. Another Clinton aide, who asked not to be named put it this way:
Imagine we finally thaw relations with North Korea and Hillary travels to Pyongyang. As she is on the tarmac greeting the delegation, her hat falls off and hits Kim Jong Il, flattening his pompadour. It could compromise US national security with regards to our attempts to curb North Korean nuclear ambitions.Other Lincoln parallels remain to be worked out by the President-elect and his transition team. During the campaign there was some talk that Senator Joe Biden was chosen as vice-president after he bragged that he was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands. This turned out to be nothing more than a "rhetorical flourish," but Obama kept him on the ticket anyway.
No word yet on the fate of Tom Daschle's glasses. There have been rumors that he will be forced to change the style of his eyeglass frames to one more closely resembling the glasses of Benjamin Franklin, or possibly Harry Truman. Daschle's current choice of eyewear made news when comments by Obama were accidentally picked up on an open mic at a healthcare policy forum. A CNN sound man captured Obama chiding Daschle saying, "Tom, what's up with the specs? You look like Sally Jesse Raphael."