Jan 14 2013

Obama’s New Cabinet – Is Lack of Race and Gender Diversity the Only Problem?

In the days since President Barack Obama announced his cabinet picks for his new term, some members of Congress and the media have accused him of having a diversity problem. While his first term was characterized by being the most diverse in terms of race and gender in history, his new picks for his second term have so far been all white men: John Kerry for Secretary of State (after Susan Rice bowed out), John Brennan for head of the CIA, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, and Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary.

The appointments were preceded by two key women from Obama’s first term announcing their resignations: Hillary Clinton as State Secretary – she became the third woman after Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright to head that department; and Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary – Solis had been the first Latina to ever head a Cabinet-level agency. Her replacement has not yet been announced. EPA head Lisa Jackson also retired late last year.

While Kathleen Sebelius remains on as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Janet Napolitano retains her Head of Homeland Security position, none of the new appointments have been women and none have been people of color.

Republican Mike Huckabee accused Obama of waging his own “war on women,” and asked “[h]ow come there is so much testosterone in the Obama Cabinet and so little estrogen?’” Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel called the new cabinet “embarrassing as hell” in terms of its lack of diversity. And CNN editorialized that Obama’s cabinet was “shaping up to be a boys club.”

However, New America Media calls the issue of Obama’s cabinet diversity “Much Ado About Nothing,” pointing out Obama’s “two high profile women appointees to the Supreme Court,” and that “seven out of his ten appointees to the federal judiciary have been minorities or women or both.”

But some progressives, like Arun Gupta, are asking a deeper question – while there is much being made of race and gender diversity, is there enough emphasis on political diversity?

GUEST: Arun Gupta, journalist and activist, co-founder of the Indypendent, and co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. He is also a regular contributor to AlterNet, Truthout and The Guardian.

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