Obama’s cabinet: a question of diversity

This Nov. 16, 2012 file photo shows Labor Secretary Hilda Solis speaking in Los Angeles.
This Nov. 16, 2012 file photo shows Labor Secretary Hilda Solis speaking in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

President Obama’s cabinet-to-be sure doesn’t look much like the country he represents. With Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announcing her resignation on Wednesday, there is one less woman and minority in Obama’s inner circle. The commander-in-chief has already come under scrutiny for  his lack of diversity among his top advisers.

Obama has recently nominated a slew of white men as cabinet nominees, including John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, John Brennan for the CIA. Obama will also reportedly nominate White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew for Secretary of Treasury.

Solis, the country’s first Hispanic labor secretary, did not give a reason for her departure, only saying in a letter to her staff that she “enjoyed my first opportunity in years to reflect on the past and my future” over the holidays.

Hardball host Chris Matthews said on Wednesday that it did seem like there were “a lot of white guys getting good jobs,” but acknowledged that 43% of Obama’s appointments overall have been women.

He  pointed to a New York Times story with a photo showing Obama’s top advisers. All 10 in the photo are men (to be fair, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett can’t be seen, except for her leg). Matthews asked Salon.com’s Joan Walsh if there was something wrong with the picture. “Obviously,” said Walsh. But she said the photo would look a lot different if Jarrett was visible. Obama, Walsh said, also deserved credit for nominating two women to the Supreme Court.

However, she said the lack of diversity “is a little disturbing…It’s really something that should be corrected. I think he will in future appointments but he doesn’t have another chance to correct those top, top appointments.”

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson said diversity is a “process and you keep working at it.” He said he once challenged then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the diversity in the State Department and if she had done enough. Robinson recalled Rice huffily said, “Don’t judge me as I find this institution. Judge me as I leave it.” Robinson told Matthews, “I think that’s the way we should judge the president’s record on diversity…in the fullness of time. Let’s hope not too much time.”

White House Press Secretary Carney defended Obama on Wednesday, insisting “women are well represented” in the senior staff. “The president believes that diversity is important because having diversity increases the excellence of the pool of advisers around you, pool of the staff that you have here,” Carney said. “And I think it will be true in the second term.”

Obama's cabinet: a question of diversity