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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Are We Really Worried About Obama’s Cabinet?



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In the Friday edition of the Morning Jolt newsletter:

Are Conservatives Really Complaining About the Lack of Diversity in Obama’s Cabinet?

So . . . do those of us on the Right really care if Obama’s cabinet is a bunch of white men?

I understand the joy of playing the diversity card on a Democratic administration, particularly against a president supported by activists who cry “racism” over just about any statement any Republican makes anywhere, anytime. Yes, it’s yet another epic double standard, one egregious enough to spur some tense exchanges between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski the other morning.

But do we genuinely feel that there are a lot of really good female or minority candidates — whom Obama would plausibly select, not the Righty folks we would have preferred — who were passed over for John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, and Jack Lew? The only name I’ve heard mentioned was Michele Flournoy instead of Hagel; she served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. Do any of us honestly believe that a racial or gender bias against women and minorities is shaping Obama’s picks?

I’m all for playing political hardball. But if we think the country and media are too obsessed with pigeonholing people and seeing them and defining them through the lenses of race and gender, doesn’t our current nyahh-nyahh piling-on feed the beast?

Or is it that with Obama’s 2008 election having been proven to be not much of an improvement for race relations, and with knee-jerk cries of racism probably even more common than they were before Obama’s rise to the top of American politics, we’ve given up on a genuinely colorblind society? Or is it that by playing the not-diverse-enough card, we feel like we’re illuminating how petty and absurd it is to evaluate the quality of a president’s cabinet by the amount of melanin in the skin and which genitals its members have?

Back in 1992-93, President Bill Clinton fumed about “bean counters” playing “quota games.” But instead of backing off, the Democratic party and the Left became even more obsessed with emphasizing that only blacks could serve the interests of black citizens, women for women, and so on. After all, something spurred Elizabeth Warren to decide to self-identify as Native American while at Harvard, based on family tales and “high cheekbones.”

Remember, Obama ran an ad last year declaring simply, “Mitt Romney: He’s not one of us.”

This assessment from Ed Morrissey makes me think it’s that ultimately we think the obsessions of the Left’s Diversity Police are contradictory, impossible to live up to, and nonsensical. Saul Alinsky’s fourth rule: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.”

We can argue with this bean-counting point of view, but the White House can’t. They ran on this bean-counting point of view, making fun of Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment that overlooked his more successful effort to produce gender balance on his gubernatorial cabinet in Massachusetts. They are being hoist by their own petard . . .

The most amusing part of this entire problem is that Obama had an opportunity to defuse it before it erupted. Rather than pick Chuck Hagel, seen mainly as a way to stick a thumb in the eye of Republicans, he could have promoted Michelle Fluornoy at Defense instead. Not only would that have interrupted the monochromatic (monogenderic, anyway) parade that has caught the media’s attention, it would have arguably been a much better choice anyway, and one much less likely to create controversy in the confirmation process.

Perhaps what we relish about this is that it illuminates how phony most of the traditional cries for diversity are. In the end, the “bean counters” always back down for Democratic presidents.

One person who’s authentic in her anger over this is Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers:

“I consider myself a feminist,” Powers began, “but then when I watched what went on during the election and the way Mitt Romney was treated, and this sort of hypocrisy where the ‘binders full of women’ was really ridiculed, and he was treated like he was a misogynist.” However, she said, when “you see a picture like this with President Obama, and you have the left basically making excuses for him.”

She cited Ruth Marcus calling the lack of females “bad, but not an outrage.” In response, Powers said, “Really? Because it’s an outrage if it’s a Republican. And I think that this is why when they survey women, and they ask them, ‘Do you consider yourself a feminist,’ most women say no because the feminist movement is just so one-sided. It’s always carrying water for the Democrats.”

“I can tell you, from working in Democratic politics, and having worked in the Clinton White House and so on, that this is something that Democratic women will complain about behind the scenes. If you look at pictures of President Bush, Condoleezza Rice is always by his side. You look at a picture after 9/11, it has Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, Condoleezza Rice in the picture. Bill Clinton’s inner circle were all men, pretty much mostly white men. And I think the issue is that if you’re going to go out and claim that you are the party of women, I mean give me a break. There are no women? It’s ridiculous.” . . .

Matt Cooper with the inconvenient truth about how Washington perceives diversity: “Hiring more Ivy Leaguers who vacation on Martha’s Vineyard — whether they take a house in African-American-rich Oak Bluffs, like Valerie Jarrett, or own in whiter up-island like Steve Rattner — isn’t really widening your horizon that much.“


Tags: Barack Obama


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