When President Obama first took office, he was wise to install a "team of rivals," from Hillary Clinton to Bush-era defense secretary Robert Gates, who ensured his views would be challenged. But his second-term staff appears to be more a "team of loyalists," writes Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post, and that could help explain why the administration has recently seemed "besieged and befuddled" by a range of challenges at home and abroad. "Obama is in danger of cementing an image of haplessness that would be hard to undo."
Obama, Hiatt writes, appeared surprised by Russia in Crimea and ISIS in Iraq. Egypt, our ally Bahrain, and China have all shown a recent willingness to "disrespect" the US and its political positions. Germany's angry with us, and the White House seems confused about its messages on the economy and immigration. And while the first term saw rivals helping to guide the president, "many of their places have been taken by people who are no less honorable or hard-working but for whom loyalty to the president may come first," Hiatt writes. Obama needs "people who will challenge his thinking and, when necessary, tell him news he would rather not hear." Click for the full piece. (Read more President Obama stories.)