Monday, May 6, 2013

President Obama Continues His Failure To Create An Equally Representative Cabinet in His Second Term


 President Obama has put together an even less diverse Cabinet than in his first term. | AP Photo


This is yet another very bad sign that the President lacks the necessary vision and courage to do the right thing with regard to women and people of color in his administration.  Obama's decided indifference to properly defending and promoting not merely more 'diversity' (a much better phrase in this context would be true equality) in his cabinet but  also failing to properly promote the kind of truly progressive political talent among his senior advisor and White House  administrative staff positions as well--especially in the crucial areas of major public policy in both the domestic and foreign policy spheres--is downright indefensible at this point in his now clearly stalled second term Presidency.  There's simply no excuse for giving over 90% of these major positions to white males only.  In addition considering that only 39% of the white electorate voted for him in 2012 (a whopping 88% of Romney's final tally of 59 million votes--a grand total of 52 million white votes overall vs. the 34 million white votes that Obama received--created a massive landslide margin of 18 million more votes for Romney/Ryan that would have been absolutely devastating for this President if not for  the extraordinary support of African Americans (who voted nationally at a higher electoral rate than their demographic share of the national vote than white voters for the first time in American history in 2012!  and 94% overall with the highest share of the electorate in the entire country being cast by black women who voted 96% in favor of Obama.  Yet there are NO black females (and only two black men--Attorney General Eric Holder a carryover from 2008 in the Justice Department and the selection just last week of Anthony Foxx a 42 year old ex-mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina in the relatively insignificent position of--as far as creating meaningful and substantive public policy is concerned--of Secretary of Transportation in this 'new' cabinet and only two new women period--both white as well.  And this is in spite of the fact that nationally Obama beat Romney among women by a whopping 11 points, 55%-44%.  But what's strange about these very favorable stats for Obama is that even white women voters voted 56%-44% for Romney(!).   So it was black (96%), Latina (80%), and Asian American female voters (85%) who voted overwhelmingly for the President by a margin of 80% to 20% nationally which more than made up for and erased the big national advantage that Romney enjoyed among white female voters.  One would think that with these kind of huge numbers among people of color generally and especially women of color that Obama would feel some major responsibility toward these indispensable constituencies to make sure their demographic and ideological representatives were in important positions in his government's second term.  After all it would have absolutely impossible for Obama to win both in 2008 (where McCain/Palin received over 55% of the national white vote--as well as over 65% among white men) and re-election in 2012 at all without the huge voting blocs in his favor of people of color and women who were  collectively directly responsible for Obama being only the fourth President in the past one hundred years to win two terms for the Presidency with more than 50% of the national electorate both times  (the others are FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan!).  One would have thought just from the perspective of practical political strategy--not to mention a genuine sense of political loyalty, consideration, and trust--that Obama who is opposed vociferously ON EVERYTHING by the entire Republican Party and the large  venomous Tea Party caucus in Congress which is made up of 99.9% whites (over 90% of whom are--like the overwhelming majority of Obama's cabinet members in both terms--white men) that he would finally act boldly and decisively on behalf of those who actually elected him...

So the real bottomline here as this and many other appropriately critical articles pointed out this week  is  that there is no excuse for Obama "failing" or rather choosing not to select black, Latino, and Asian American men and women for his cabinet and senior advisory staff--which contains only ONE black woman, Valerie Jarrett, and two other white women among a large group of white men who outnumber them 3-1 in these coveted and important positions in the White House as well.  What's even more pathetic is that as usual far too many liberals, progressives, and leftists alike have made too many indefensible excuses  for and  given servile "passes" to the President in the name of some distorted and badly misguided sense of racial or even gender "loyalty" that turns a blind eye to this kind of political and personal indifference and dismissal of the most important, necessary, and indispensable segments of his national constituency that had in two major presidential elections organized one of the most disciplined and successful campaigns in U.S. history.  But like always, once any politician begins blithely compromising, undermining, and routinely violating even their most basic and elementary principles (in this case Obama's often stated rhetorical desire in his political career--especially during his two unprecedented runs for the Presidency!--to have far more inclusion, equality, and "diversity" generally in government), one can safely and even cynically  surmise that his more general political and ideological agenda--and all that it allegedly stands for--isn't very far behind...Stay tuned...  


Obama diversity disappoints again
By: Jennifer Epstein
May 5, 2013 

President Barack Obama completed his second Cabinet this week with a nod that might have been expected to delight women’s groups: he picked longtime supporter Penny Pritzker to serve as Secretary of Commerce, selecting yet another woman for a high-profile executive branch position.

Instead, the National Organization for Women’s response sounded a relatively ambivalent note. “Penny Pritzker Appointment is Good, But Still Not Good Enough,” the group said in its first statement. “More Women Should be in the Cabinet.”

There were, after all, just eight women among the 23 Cabinet-level officials in Obama’s first term. And that number will be even lower in his second.

After picking an all-white, all-male slate to fill departures at key departments including State and Treasury, Obama urged critics to be patient. Given time, he promised just before his second inauguration, he’d erase concerns sparked by an entirely white and male group of top picks.

“I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they’ve seen all my appointments — who is in the White House staff and who is in my Cabinet — before they rush to judgment,” he said. “Until you’ve seen what my overall team looks like, it’s premature to assume that somehow we’re going backwards. We’re not going backwards, we’re going forward.”

Now the second term Cabinet is complete, with final selections that include both Pritzker and Anthony Foxx, an African American, for Transportation secretary. Still, Obama’s put together a less diverse Cabinet than in his first term, when his picks were criticized for being too white and male. And quite a few of the people Obama had asked to hold off until the picture was complete say they they’re not so sure it was worth the wait.

Diversity woes may seem an unlikely headache for the nation’s the first black president. After all, Obama has appointed two women to the Supreme Court, including the first Latino justice, and his current Cabinet choices are only slightly less diverse than in the first term — itself second only to President Bill Clinton’s “Cabinet that looks like America” in terms of representation. Just a few months ago, the president made no secret of his interest in nominating Susan Rice, an African-American woman, to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

And there’s no denying the president’s picks for some of the Cabinet’s most visible roles — such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — come to their jobs after long and distinguished careers that make them logical picks for a Democratic president looking to stock his team with top talent.

But overall, there’s no denying the group he wound up with isn’t just less diverse than the current demographics of the country, and far less representative of the coalition of voters that got Obama reelected. It even falls short in virtually every category of the marks he set in his first term.

The failure of his quest to nominate Rice has resulted in an Obama Cabinet with no women serving in its top ranks — State, Defense, Justice, Treasury. With the exceptions of Valerie Jarrett, Jennifer Palmieri and Lisa Monaco, his senior advisers are nearly all white men. And so a group which had already been criticized for being too white and too male is about to become even more so.

If Foxx is confirmed, there will be three African Americans in the Cabinet, one fewer than before. The number of Asian Americans has dropped from 3 to just 1: first-term holdover Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And if Labor Secretary-designate Thomas Perez is confirmed, the number of Latinos will have officially made an identical slide.

A White House official told of this story responded by sending dozens of statements from women’s, Latino and African-American groups that applauded individual picks. Those statements made no mention of the bigger diversity picture in the whole Cabinet, though some of those same groups have voiced concerns on that front.

Some advocacy groups admit that they’re holding the president to a higher standard, given who he is. Still, few of them are willing to let him off the hook, even with this week’s diverse picks still fresh in the headlines: it hasn’t escaped their notice that Obama’s inner circle and top officials have remained so consistently, predominantly white and male that it’s become the easiest punch line in town.

“I at least expected that more than a third of the jobs would go to women,” NOW’s president, Terry O’Neill told POLITICO. “Women should be half the Cabinet. We’re 51 percent of the population, and more than half of us voted for the president’s reelection.” Instead, women have been picked for just seven of 23 Cabinet posts.

O’Neill had asked the White House to appoint at least three women to occupy the Cabinet’s top spots and chair the Council of Economic Advisers. Women held two of the key four Cabinet roles when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and Christina Romer led the CEA.

“This is about who walks into the Oval Office every day and speaks to the president about policy, and the answer to that question is not that many women,” O’Neill said. “The people who have that level of access are almost exclusively male and that is a huge problem.”

Some African-American leaders echo those complaints. They point out that Obama isn’t just falling short of the standard he set during his first term — he’s failing to meet the mark set by President Bill Clinton 20 years ago, when African-Americans held five positions, including the then Cabinet-level post of drug czar.

“What we’re looking for is a government that at a minimum has been better than any other president has ever been on diversity,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “He’s not there yet, even though he’s African American.”

The nominations this week of Foxx and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency — not a Cabinet-level position — were reassuring, Thompson said, but still not enough.

Leaders of some Hispanic and Latino groups, who have widely applauded the Perez nomination and are working to make sure the Senate confirms him, express similar frustration.

“It’s safe to say we’re a little disappointed by this new Cabinet,” said Rafael Collazo, director of political campaigns for National Council of La Raza, which also wanted to see three Latinos nominated to Cabinet positions. “It doesn’t look like there’s going to be an increase in diversity, and that’s what we wanted to see.”

Hector Sanchez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, said he’s “a little bit concerned” that only one Latino has been nominated. White House aides, he said, had promised that the president would ultimately nominate two Latinos to Cabinet-level posts.

His group led a campaign after Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced their resignations to call on Obama to take “an historic step” and nominate Latinos to three of the 15 “traditional cabinet” positions. (The president’s nominee for energy secretary is Ernest Moniz, whose parents were from Portugal and who doesn’t consider himself Hispanic.)

There is still a bit of hope — Obama will need to make one more Cabinet-level nomination in the weeks ahead, for a new head of the Small Business Administration, and is expected to pick a Latino candidate. Still, “the window of opportunity is almost closed,” Sanchez said. “And we’re worried that we’re not going to have a fair representation of the Latino community in this administration.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said she was thrilled to see three Asian Americans in Obama’s initial first-term Cabinet — but had hoped that the president would nominate another Asian American to join Shinseki.

“Seventy-three percent of Asian-American Pacific Islanders voted for the president, they came together to support him and we just want to make sure that his Cabinet reflects that support and is as diverse as possible,” Chu said. The challenge for Asian Americans reaches deeper, she said, noting that by her count there are none serving as deputy secretaries or undersecretaries in the Obama administration.

One of the president’s most enthusiastic voting blocs would have been happy with even a lone representative in his second-term cabinet. Instead, gay groups say they are discouraged that no one who is openly gay has gotten a Cabinet-level post.

“It seems crazy to me that we have never in our history had an openly gay person in the Cabinet,” said Richard Socarides, who served in a range of Clinton administration posts, including outreach to gay groups. “It seems long past due. Second-term Cabinets are often an opportunity to go back and fix some of these injustices that are obviously not entirely President Obama’s responsibility, but that he should still be involved in righting.”

Gay rights advocates had made several recommendations, including two openly gay men already in senior administration posts: Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg for Commerce or U.S. trade representative, and John Berry, the former Office of Personnel Management director, for Interior secretary.

“I’m worried that (Obama) is not focused on this, and I hope he will focus on it before too long when there are other vacancies,” Socarides added.

But despite the rumbles of discontent from some advocates, others strike a pragmatic tone: they may not be thrilled, they say — but they aren’t unhappy either.

“Would we have liked an openly gay person in the Cabinet? Absolutely,” said Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign. “But we understand there are plenty of opportunities for LGBT people to have very prominent leadership roles throughout the administration,” he said, pointing to Hochberg, Berry and several others.

If they can’t get great results, say these advocates, they’ll settle for good enough. “We are moving in the right direction and we hope to see this tradition (of women in the Cabinet) get stronger and stronger with each administration,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “The more women that go through the pipeline of winning elections and having political jobs, the more we’ll see get to high places.”

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