Critics on Both Sides Distort Obama’s White Male Cabinet Problem

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 12:20 am

A December 29 Oval Office Meeting. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

There has been a lot of fuss from left-wing sources over President Obama’s cabinet choices to date: white men all. To liberals and progressives, this does not look like the step forward Obama promised. White men, after all, have gotten us to where we are today. The vaunted Anglo-Saxons dropped the ball – and in spectacular fashion.

And this is not just something whispered about by fringe leftists. Ironically (and hypocritically), rape enthusiast Mike Huckabee says Obama is waging his own war on women by failing to appoint them to his cabinet.

NOW president Terry O’Neill says that, “Clearly, [the number of women in the cabinet] should be 50 percent.” She also stressed that she is very happy with Obama but you can tell she sees this as an important issue.

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Andrea Mitchell talked about the cabinet and gender on Meet the Press Sunday:

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For some liberals, Obama looks entirely too much like Bush, not only in terms of politics but in his appointment of women: 43 percent of Obama’s Cabinet appointments white males, while Bush’s cabinet appointees were 52 percent white male.

But at a press conference yesterday, the president said not to worry:

“I’m very proud that in the first four years, we had as diverse, if not a more diverse White House and Cabinet than any in history, and I intend to continue that.”

Critics, he said, should not “rush to judgment,” which is exactly what many of them have been doing.

He’s lost some of that diversity – Hilary Clinton is the most prominent departure as Secretary of State. But there is also Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, EPA-head Lisa Jackson, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. That’s a white woman, a Latino woman, and an Asian male, for those keeping track.

So far, the president has appointed four white men, who will in his second term hold the top four posts in his cabinet – secretary of defense, secretary of state, secretary of the Treasury and attorney general, including John Kerry as Secretary of State.

We have to remember, Obama did attempt to appoint a woman – Susan Rice- as Hilary’s successor, but the Republicans were having none of that. They complained that she said something that was true, and that was just too much for the modern-day GOP.

And as Jon Stewart pointed out of Rice, “Lady and minority, triple word score!”

“Oh right,” he said. “McCain!”

And, he said, Obama is “somewhat diverse himself.”

Obama, meanwhile, pointed out at Monday’s press conference that his appointments are not complete:

“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.”

In other words, the famous Obama “I got this.”

He appealed to the example of Hilary:

“If you think about my first four years, the person who probably had the most influence on my foreign policy was a woman,” the president said, adding later that “one woman, admittedly a high profile one, is leaving the administration – has already left the administration – and I have made a replacement.”

Therefore, Obama said, “I think 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.”

In fact, as Cory Booker said on Meet the Press, not only is the photo above “disingenuous,” but half of Obama’s White House staff is composed of women, including his highly-valued advisor, Valerie Jarrett, who is not only a woman but a black woman. And then there is deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, and Kathy Ruemmler, the White House counsel.  We could also point to Mona Sutphen (black), Nancy-Ann Deparle (Chinese), and Carol Browner (white).

Yes, women takes advice from women; he doesn’t just expect them to make babies and keep their mouths shut. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that, “women are well represented” among the president’s senior staff. “The president believes that diversity is important because having diversity increases the excellence of the pool of advisers around you, pool of the staff that you have here. And I think it will be true in the second term.”

No, this White House does not look terribly like that of George W. Bush. Imagine Dubya taking advice from women? Not so much.

Spots yet to be filled:

  • department of transportation,
  • department of commerce
  • department of labor
  • chief of staff
  • administrator of the EPA

So there are still openings for women in the Obama cabinet. And Democrats ought to take heart that while white men took the top posts in the Obama administration so far, Republicans hate those white men, complaining that they are “extremists” who “hate America,” or are Islamic apologists. I mean, if Obama is going to choose men, he is at least choosing the right men.

Ultimately, President Obama deserves the benefit of the doubt. He has, I would argue, earned that much. Liberals and progressives should not panic. It wasn’t Obama, after all, who prevented Susan Rice’s appointment. We can imagine if she had been appointed successfully, we would not be having this conversation now.

And let’s face it, as Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC the other day, “these republicans are so determined to stand in the way it won’t matter whether they’re white men or black women; as long as they are coming from the President, they are going to get resistance.” This was a point also made by Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer to John McCain Sunday, asking why the Republicans seem ”to be against every single person” Obama  nominates.

If we are going to have a scandal, this is the scandal we should be having, not the gender of Obama’s appointments. Obama will nominate some women to his cabinet. But Republicans will oppose every single nomination, as Harris-Perry said, for the simple reason it was Obama who did the nominating. If you have a bone to pick, Democrats, pick that one.

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