Obama's retro cabinet: White, male, controversialBy Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Jan 21, 2013 - 1:14:13 PM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - One after one, cabinet officers serving in President Barack Obama’s first term administration announced their resignations—Blacks, women, the only Latino woman, an Asian man—but those who have been named to fill the high profile government positions have been, one after one, White males.
The lack of diversity in filling the first cabinet openings has prompted criticism, even from Mr. Obama’s staunchest allies, and derision from other observers.
“It’s as embarrassing as hell,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus and Dean of the New York congressional delegation said on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.” of Mr. Obama’s top picks.
Someone should “Get the White House some binders full of women,” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote. “About all those white guys: What a shame. Not an outrage, but a shame,” Ms. Marcus said. “The face of power that President Obama has chosen to present to the country and the world with his second-term Cabinet picks is striking—except for the African American president at the top of the pyramid—for its retro look, white and male.”
Incoming Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) got specific, recommending two former CBC chairs—Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Melvin Watt (D-N.C.)—for open cabinet seats.
“Both Melvin Watt and Barbara Lee have served the American people in the United States House of Representatives and the citizens of their respective Congressional districts with distinction … (and) are exceptionally well-qualified, proven candidates,” Rep. Fudge said in a letter to the president recommending Mr. Watt to replace acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, and Ms. Lee to replace Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
Rep. Watt has been a member of Congress since 1993 and Rep. Lee has served in the House since 1998.
“We’ve been through all of this with Mitt Romney. And we were very hard on Mitt Romney with the women binder and a variety of things,” Mr. Rangel said.
Meanwhile, Republican Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 presidential candidate accused President Obama of waging his own “war on women,” and asked “(h)ow come there is so much testosterone in the Obama Cabinet and so little estrogen?” according to a report on UprisingRadio.org. And CNN editorialized that Mr. Obama’s cabinet was “shaping up to be a boys club.”
“I had thought that it could be the Harvard problem,” Mr. Rangel explained, “where people just know each other, trust each other. And women and minorities don’t get a chance to rub elbows and their reputations and experience is not known ... so in the second term, these people should be just as experienced as anybody, any other American.”
The president’s picks for secretaries of Treasury, State and Defense are all White men. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving, as is Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. An iconic photo of Mr. Obama’s new inner circle highlighted by The New York Times recently, showed just one woman—Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett—addressing the president. The Times reported that overall, about 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same as President Bill Clinton but about 10 percent more than President George W. Bush.
For his part, Mr. Obama addressed the diversity concerns Jan. 13 during the last press conference of his first term. “I would suggest people wait until they see all my appointments ... before they rush to judgment,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the East Room. “It’s premature to assume we’re going backwards. We’re not going backwards, we’re going forward.”