Obama Diversity Problem
This photo shows President Obama meeting Jan. 8, 2013 with senior advisers in the Oval Office. Unlike a previously released photo, this one shows several female advisers. (White House)
This Dec. 29, 2012 photo shows President Obama meeting with senior advisers in the Oval Office. Only men are visible, though adviser Valerie Jarrett was in the room. (White House)
It’s getting hard not to notice all the president’s — white — men.
After running a campaign that highlighted its appeal among women and diversity in the party, President Obama is starting to take some flak for the common thread among his initial nominees for second-term openings.
From John Kerry for secretary of state to Jack Lew for secretary of the Treasury to Chuck Hagel for defense secretary to John Brennan for CIA director — all are white men.
Those four marked just the first round of second-term nominations. But on Thursday, Democratic New York Rep. Charlie Rangel called the lack of diversity “embarrassing as hell.”
“I’ve spent so much time making fun of Republicans, in terms of just the picture and the absence of women and Jewish people in the Congress, and blacks and Hispanics — it has just been unreal. Now, I’m going to have to learn, when trying to explain why our picture, at least as it relates to the president’s Cabinet, looks the same,” Rangel said on Fox Business.
The questions come after Democrats during the 2012 campaign heaped derision on Mitt Romney when he tried to describe the pains he had taken, as Massachusetts governor, to promote diversity on his staff. At the time, Romney said he went to women’s groups who brought his team “whole binders full of women.”
In turn, Democrats — and Obama himself — used the line to suggest Romney was out of touch with female voters.
“You don’t want someone who needs to ask for binders of women,” Obama said on Oct. 19.
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said that despite how Romney was treated during the election, the left is now “basically making excuses” for Obama now.
“It’s an outrage if it’s a Republican,” she said.
The Obama White House last month prompted questions about diversity in the inner circle after an official photograph appeared to show only men surrounding the president during a meeting of advisers at the Oval Office. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, it turned out, had been obscured in the shot. The White House circulated a fresh photo showing Jarrett, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that “women are well represented in the president’s senior staff here.”
He ticked off the appointments from the first term of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Hillary Clinton also has served as secretary of state and Hilda Solis as labor secretary, though both are leaving.
“I think it would be useful to wait and make judgments about this issue after the president has made the totality of appointments that he will make in the transition to a second term,” Carney said.
White House aides point to the president’s placement of two women on the Supreme Court and the fact that some of his Cabinet vacancies — at State and Labor, for instance — were created by women leaving after four years on the job.
Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report.