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The Content of Obama’s Cabinet

President Barack Obama with Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, January 7, 2013.

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We have to hand it to the “diversity” crowd, for at least they’re consistent. The temptation must have been to look the other way as President Obama assembled his second-term cabinet. They have done no such thing. “This term,” Elspeth Reeve grumbled in The Atlantic, the president is “picking a lot of white males.” The “White House’s top ranks” are redolent of a “boys club,” an article by CNN’s Halimah Abdullah complained. Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, thus felt compelled to assure reporters that the president “insists on diversity on the lists that he considers for the job.” If the media must criticize the administration, we suppose, it will do so on essentially liberal ground.

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Yet consistency in error is no virtue at all, and those who would judge the Obama administration by the crooked yardstick of “diversity” are misguided. So too are those conservatives who, remembering how mercilessly the Obama campaign derided Mitt Romney for his line about reviewing “binders full of women” when choosing appointees, have been keen to point out the president’s hypocrisy. Seductive as revenge is, we believe that it is the wrong course. This type of mockery affords the “diversity” fetish a legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve.

An open society will see natural variations in the makeup of government. Three of the last four secretaries of state were women. Two were black. One was a black woman. Now, it seems there will be a white man in the post. President George W. Bush’s cabinet was the “most diverse ever,” until Obama’s outdid it. The president’s new cabinet, by contrast, will be more white and more male. So what?

These are patterns that one would expect in a melting-pot society. The entertainment website Buzzfeed hyperventilated that if Obama’s nominees are approved, America might be stuck with “a Cabinet that looks more like 1997 than 2013.” Leaving to one side that we do not remember the days of 1997 as being especially grim, to look at the president’s proposed team and to conclude that America has taken a backward step is folly. Is there any evidence of preferential hiring by the White House? Do we suspect the president of white supremacy? Does he believe that only white men will be approved by the Senate? Is it likely that the progress of non-whites and women will be harmed by his appointments? We think not.

President Obama has nominated the people that he wishes to fill the jobs he has available, and many of his nominees are white men. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, one should presume that he has made these choices in good faith. We have our problems with the president’s choices, but our concerns relate to his nominees’ policy positions and their political outlooks — not to their race or sex. Anything else would be improper, a violation of the principles of merit and colorblindness.

In his defense of the president, Jay Carney assured the White House press corps that “in the end, he’ll make the choice that he believes is best for the United States.” This is true. President Obama will get it wrong, of course, but not for lack of enthusiasm for “diversity.”



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