His selection of White House chief of staff Jack Lew to replace Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary follows the pattern. He's been nominating people who are already well within his comfort zone and likely to actively promote his agenda, let the chips fall where they may in dealings with Republicans.
Lew, who previously served as Obama's budget director, often clashed with House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans in 2011 debt-limit negotiations and just-concluded "fiscal cliff" bargaining.
If confirmed, he's likely to cross swords again with GOP leaders in a new round of budget and debt-ceiling talks that were already likely to be contentious.
Obama's selection of a reliable insider and budget expert for the critical Treasury job — and not a prominent outsider with broad business or Wall Street experience — is yet another sign that he intends to actively pursue his economic-policy objectives in his second term, including raising more tax revenues from the wealthy than agreed to in the fiscal-cliff deal.
So far, his top choices have included people already in his administration, such as Lew for Treasury and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director, or former Capitol Hill colleagues, such as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, for secretary of state and former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as defense secretary.
Both the Hagel and Brennan nominations are drawing criticism from Republicans.
In her 2005 book "Team of Rivals," the basis for the hit movie "Lincoln," historian Doris Kearns Goodwin explored how Abraham Lincoln overcame some obstacles of his presidency by giving top posts in his administration to former political opponents, keeping them close by and muting their criticism.
It worked for Lincoln. Obama is charting his own course.
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