Obama's Cabinet Diversity Record 'Embarrassing as Hell'

The president has surrounded himself with white male advisers. Aren't there any women, Blacks, Latinos or Asians qualified to sit on his Cabinet?

Why is President Obama's new Cabinet overwhelmingly white and male? A recent group photo of Obama and his advisers in the White House published by The New York Times pinpointed what many have been noticing—a huge lack of racial and gender diversity. Is he shortchanging the millions of Blacks, Latinos and women who propelled his election win?


Public figures are weighing in with their dissatisfaction: Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said, "I think [Obama] can do better;" and Congressman Charlie Rangel said the lack of diversity on Obama's team was "embarrassing as hell. … He's had four years to work the bench, to work the second team, so that in the second term, these people should be just as experienced as any other American." Watch the video interview with Rangel.

Is There Really a Lack of Diversity?

The three people the President has nominated so far—John Kerry as Secretary of State, Jack Lew as Secretary of Treasury and Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense—are all white men. With two appointments still in the works, the 16-member Cabinet will be at least 69 percent white and at least 69 percent male. (Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a Latina, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a Latino, have announced their resignations, but replacements have not been nominated.)

"I'm very proud that in the first four years we had as diverse, if not more diverse, a White House and a cabinet than any in history," Obama says. "And I intend to continue that." A diverse team, he added, "helps to create more effective policy-making and better decision-making for me because it brings different perspectives to the table."

"Women are well-represented in the president's senior staff here," Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, adds. "Two of the three deputy chiefs of staff are women. The White House counsel is a woman. A woman runs Homeland Security for this country, Secretary [Janet] Napolitano. … The Cabinet secretary in charge of the most important piece of domestic-policy legislation in a generation is a woman, [Secretary of Health and Human Services] Kathleen Sebelius."

 

According to White House personnel data compiled by The New York Times, the Obama Administration has improved the number of women appointees by 10 percent to 43 percent, up from 33 percent in George W. Bush's administration and about the same ratio as Bill Clinton's (41 percent).

But with a campaign strongly based on a message of change—and diversity—Obama's seemingly not happy with a meager 10 percent bump either. "Word from the White House is that the President himself is irritated, and demanding answers about the faces his staff is pushing forward. Unfortunately, he has only a bunch of white guys to offer an explanation of why the picture looks like a bunch of white guys," writes New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd, a Pulitzer Prize winner. She notes that some women on the White House staff say they "are privately gratified at the latest kerfuffle, hoping it will shut down the West Wing man cave."

Obama & Diversity: The Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Chatter about the Cabinet's lack of diversity began building when Obama nominated several white men—Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and, most recently, Jack Lew as Secretary of the Treasury—and news surfaced of two female Cabinet members' resigning: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Solis.

The controversy came to a head when The New York Times ran a photo of Obama sitting in the Oval Office with 10 of his advisers—all 10 were male, and all but one were white. Senior Adviser and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett was also in the room—but only part of her leg was visible in the shot because she was upstaged by one of the white men.

[SlideDeck2 id=23179]

Obama has been under fire since from a wide range of high-profile media sources: Bloomberg View's Margaret Carlson says "He doesn't look beyond his nose for more minority recruits"; The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus says, "About all those white guys: What a shame. Not an outrage, but a shame"; CBS News Political Director John Dickerson says, "Look, Mr. President, you won your election based on the votes of women and minorities, so you should respect that in your naming of the cabinet picks." Fifty-five percent of women, 93 percent of Blacks and 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, according to CNN exit-poll data.

In May 2012, Obama similarly received disapproval for a photo of his majority white campaign staff; only two members were Black, which is far below the 13 percent representation in the national population and the 33 percent representation in Chicago.

REUTERS

Democrats O​utraising Republicans in Key House Races

Party leaders, encouraged by recent victories in special elections in Pennsylvania and Alabama, hope it will be enough to help them flip 24 seats needed in November to wrestle control of the chamber from Republicans.

(Reuters) — Democrats have a $10.5 million fundraising advantage over Republicans in the 25 most competitive races for seats the U.S. House of Representatives ahead of the November elections, according to an analysis by Reuters.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS

New York Governor to Allow 35,000 Paroled Felons to Vote

"They work, pay taxes, and support their families, and they should be permitted to express their opinions about the choices facing their communities through their votes, just as all citizens do," Cuomo said in a statement.

(Reuters) — New York State plans to restore voting rights to about 35,000 New York felons on parole who previously were barred from casting a ballot until they completed their parole, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS

New York's 'Fearless Girl' to Stare Down the Stock Exchange

"Fearless Girl," whose message is for a bigger role for women in corporate America and whose appearance in lower Manhattan on the eve of International Women's Day last year sparked a social media sensation, will be moved by the end of 2018.

(Reuters) — The bronze statue of a little girl that became a tourism phenomenon by staring down Wall Street's massive "Charging Bull" sculpture is to be moved to a nearby spot where its stern gaze will be on the male-dominated New York Stock Exchange, city officials said on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS

Senate's 'First Baby' on Hand for Confirmation Vote

A swaddled 11-day-old Maile Pearl Bowlsbey arrived on the floor of the chamber carried by her mother, Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

(Reuters) — A little history was made in Washington on Thursday — little in the form of a newborn who became the first baby ever to appear on the floor of the U.S. Senate during a vote.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS

Judge Rejects Missouri Governor's bid to Dismiss Criminal Case

The decision paved the way for the single-count felony case against Greitens, a Republican under mounting pressure from both parties to resign.

(Reuters) — A St. Louis judge on Thursday dealt Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens another legal setback in the sex scandal embroiling his office, refusing to dismiss a criminal invasion of privacy charge stemming from an admitted extramarital affair.

Read More Show Less
Nike CEO and Chairman Mark Parker/ REUTERS

Nike's Head of Diversity and Inclusion Leaves Amid Executive Scandal

The company not only has a problem accelerating women into leadership roles but also has a boys-club culture.

As Nike Inc. continues to fail in hiring and retaining women at leadership levels and grapples with the alleged sexist behavior of executives, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Antoine Andrews has left the company.

Read More Show Less