Dear President Obama:
I am writing to you today as a strong supporter of women’s rights. We cannot advance justice for women in the United States and around the globe without women’s leadership at all levels of government.
I am concerned that the current trend in your cabinet appointments has excluded women and people of color. Women, especially women of color, are being disproportionately affected by current debates over the federal budget, education policy and access to health care, and their perspective needs to be represented among your top advisers. There is no doubt that qualified women exist for each and every position you will be called to fill, so there is no excuse to consign the vast majority of decision-making power and authority to men.
President Barack Obama suffers from Groucho Marx syndrome: He favors those in the club he doesn’t belong to. Otherwise how to explain why he is fighting for Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense but didn’t for Susan Rice to be secretary of state?
At the rate he is going, Obama is going to have a Cabinet that looks more like the Augusta National Golf Club than America. The four top Cabinet posts will probably go to white men: John Kerry at State; Jack Lew at Treasury; Hagel; and the replacement for Attorney General Eric Holder at Justice — the short list of which consists of, you guessed it, men.
Obama to Mitt Romney: Could you please send me your binders full of women?
Obama promised women “contraceptives and free abortions” to get their votes, but “never promised women would have seats of significance at the table of power,” Huckabee said.
“You remember back during the Democratic [National] Convention, how he accused the Republicans of waging a war on women? And a lot of women must have believed it because he got 55 percent of the female vote, Mitt Romney 44 percent,” he said.
“Give ’em contraceptives and abortions. But don’t worry about positions of authority. They shouldn’t be asking for such things,” the former presidential candidate said.
Last summer, National Journal surveyed 717 women professionals in the beltway, and their answers make it clear: Women feel there are more opportunities for men in this town. Here are the highlights:
73 percent of the women said that men have more opportunities to get ahead than women do.
Half said they had personally experienced discrimination at work because of gender.
60 percent said it is harder for women to rise to positions of leadership…
The number of women and men employed on Capitol Hill is roughly equal, but more than twice as many chiefs of staff are men. The disparity is even starker among Republican members, who employ more than four times as many men than women in their top staff spots. In offices headed by Democrats, the number of male and female chiefs of staff is almost equal in the House, while men still outnumber women 2-to-1 in the Senate.
There is an insatiable desire, in the hearts of Republicans, to shame Democrats when they give big jobs to white dudes. It happened when Obama chose Joe Biden for vice president. It happened on January 3, when the Washington Free Beacon became one of the first sites to publicize that “Obama and dudes” photo — five days before the New York Times story (by much-missed former Slatester Annie Lowrey). On Twitter, conservatives have groused about the “hypocrisy” of Democrats, who made fun of Mitt Romney’s claim that he had “binders full of women” when he needed to make hires…
It’s just a huge distraction. The reason “binders full of women” sounded risible was that Romney was asked this question: “In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” He dodged the policy question and reminded moderator Candy Crowley that he’d personally tried to hire some women. Previously, Romney’s campaign had tried to deflect questions about contraceptive coverage and pay equity by asking everyone to get very angry at Hilary Rosen, who said that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” Tokenism and personalization have very, very little to do with the policies that make the average woman more likely to avoid unwanted pregnancy or keep her job when she decides to have a baby and needs maternity leave. Democrats made this point when they voted for male Violence Against Women co-sponsor Joe Biden instead of noted female politician Sarah Palin. And the utter lack of attention now paid to the VAWA holdup in Congress (no stories about it in the Washington Post’s print edition) is a sister to the concern trolling.
Another reason why this is particularly ridiculous is that on the whole, Obama’s Cabinet is actually fairly diverse. We have two Asian Cabinet members: Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Attorney General Eric Holder, an African-American, is staying on for Obama’s second term. Also staying on are Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services and Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security. Do these people not count? And in spite of the fact that Holder, Shinseki, and Chu are not white men, does the fact alone that they are men make them not count?
There is, of course, one more reason why this whole thing is completely ridiculous. Obama still has Commerce and Labor secretaries to appoint. Commerce has had an acting head since last year, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis stepped down this week. Obama hasn’t announced their replacements yet, so maybe we all should reserve judgment on the makeup of Obama’s second-term Cabinet when it’s finalized.
I can’t believe that Mike Huckabee and Elaine Chao (Bush’s former labor secretary) have reportedly taken President Obama to task for not having a “diverse” enough set of Cabinet appointments for his second term.
You can call him a hypocrite for insisting on selecting the best-qualified applicants while his Justice Department is telling the Supreme Court that it’s not a good idea for universities to do so, but hypocrisy is, after all, the tribute that vice pays to virtue. And Obama is, for once, being virtuous in insisting on hiring the best-qualified candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex (they are not the people I’d choose, but that’s a different story).
Diversity as a numbers game is arguably necessary but surely insufficient. You can add up the numbers of African-Americans and women and gays and say “This looks right. This is just,” but surely there are other ways to define identity…
There’s always going to be something lacking. The larger question for a president is whether there’s a diversity of ideas and experiences as well as races and genders. 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-sland like Steve Rattner — isn’t really widening your horizon that much. Leaving aside whether or not the president should have fought for Susan Rice, is her background (National Cathedral School, Stanford, Rhodes scholar) so much more diverse than that of John Kerry (St. Paul’s, Yale, Boston College)?…
[I[f we can’t see past the most obvious categories of diversity — race, gender, sexual orientation — then we’re missing a lot. It’s not how we’d want to be viewed, and its too simplistic a way of looking at the Cabinet.
This is the media’s idea of “holding Obama accountable.” In other words, in the media’s fevered, left-wing mind, hitting Obama for not playing the identity politics game is the media’s idea of holding his feet to the fire — you know, because he wasn’t liberal enough…
It’s all theatre. Through this growing, coordinated criticism, the media is deliberately pushing the idea that identity politics is a virtue above and beyond one’s qualifications. And that’s their only opposition to these nominees: gender and skin color (remember when such a thing was called “discrimination?”). And yet, the media refuses to oppose the likes of a Chuck Hagel over his record and statements surrounding Israel and Iran. Good heavens, the media can’t even bring itself to criticize Hagel for his opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest — something any other Republican would be vilified for.
“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 is no women? It’s ridiculous.”