‘Diversity’?

by Charles C. W. Cooke

BuzzFeed is reporting that “pressure is mounting to appoint the first female secretary of defense”:

The leading figures for President Obama’s top three cabinet posts are all white men, opening the possibility of a Cabinet that looks more like 1997 than 2013 and producing new pressure to appoint a woman to one of those top jobs — likely Secretary of Defense.

“More like 1997 than 2013?” Well, back to those hideous and dark days we’ll have to go, I suppose. That being said, I can never quite work out why it’s a problem if the top three cabinet posts are held by white men — or by black women or Peruvian bisexuals, for that matter. If the aim is, as it should most certainly be, to promote the best people to the top jobs — to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, to coin a phrase — then the focus on their skin color and gender is odd, to say the least. Reactionary, even. America hasn’t had a white man as Secretary of State for 15 years. So bloody what? Should we appoint one because it’s “his turn”? That way lies mindless discrimination.

The article continues:

The first black president is understandably insulated from criticism on the grounds of diversity, but the increasingly diverse American cabinet has come to be seen as a source of, in particular, diplomatic strength: 

This assertion is all you need to know about the nonsense that is talk of “diversity.” George W. Bush put together the most “diverse” cabinet in American history, but that wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, Obama is apparently about to give all three top jobs to white men and he’s “understandably insulated” because he’s black? How silly.

Three of the last four Secretaries of State confirmed have been women, and their high profile has been part of America’s tacit case about women’s rights from Africa to Afghanistan . . . “I think the President has always believed that in order to achieve the highest level of excellence in his Cabinet, and more broadly, in his administration, that diversity is important,” Carney said.

Actually, this isn’t an argument in favor of “diversity” at all, but an argument in favor of a woman’s being secretary of state. If the United States derives serious benefit from making its “tacit case about women’s rights from Africa to Afghanistan” — and if that is the key issue when considering the role — then I certainly wouldn’t have a problem if it became a convention that a woman took the role every single time. But to talk about “diversity” requires that, after a while, the position would have to be given to someone who isn’t a woman, which would rather undermine the case. (Incidentally, if there were any evidence that female secretaries of state hurt American interests, I doubt that they would be similarly entertained.)

Having suggested that Michèle Flournoy would be a better bet, BuzzFeed demonstrates that it has been conflating two issues from the start — that of a woman becoming secretary of defense, and that of Republicans not really liking Chuck Hagel:

One Senate Republican foreign policy aide said while Flournoy would face scrutiny, she would likely not provoke a bitter confirmation fight.

“Where Hagel is viewed as anti-Israel, Flournoy gets to tout her credentials of expanding U.S.-Israel defense relations,” the aide said, noting that Republicans tried to brand Obama as soft on Israel during the general election. “Obama responded by citing the unprecedented defense cooperation between the US and Israel — and Flournoy was the lead on that agenda.”

The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol wrote Friday that the selection of Flournoy or Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter would be far more amenable to Republicans. “The Weekly Standard would expect to differ with such nominees on many issues,” he wrote. “But they wouldn’t be out on the fringes like Chuck Hagel.”

“If the President wants a messy fight, send us Hagel; if he wants smooth sailing, send us Flournoy,” the Senate Republican aide said.

Politics as usual. Fair enough. But let’s hear no more nonsense about “diversity.”