Much has been made about Barack Obama hiring a "team of rivals" in his administration. Some have rightly noted that the term is overblown, and others have noted that the Team of Rivals was not actually all that effective. But the main narrative is that it's an effective way to encourage dissent within the White House.
I want to point out how limited the term "rival" is at least in terms of professional background and to some extent ideology. First of all, before Clinton and Obama fought for the presidency, they were both relatively liberal Democratic senators, a group numbering in the dozens. "Rival" Robert Gates is a member of the Bush administration for sure, and a former director of the CIA, but he is also a former college president, a position that requires tact and fund raising skill as much as intellectual vision. Janet Napolitano is a governor, Eric Holder a former office holder, Larry Summers, a former Treasury Secretary and president of Harvard--all insiders, part of an elite group that has access to real power in the United States. And not only are they insiders, but they are either former or current government office holders or politicians, whose job description includes smoothing rough edges of their own personalities.
It's interesting to note the derivation of the term rival--according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it comes from the Latin, rivalis--meaning "one living on the opposite bank of a stream from another." Or in other words, same stream, different bank.
In a sense, this is a team of rivals not unlike a national Olympic team is a team of rivals. Athletes might compete against one another for years and years, but then are thrown together on the same team every four years--after competing against each other for the same spot on the team. Sound familiar?