Obama deflects criticism about lack of diversity

WASHINGTON — Deflecting criticism about a perceived lack of diversity in his second-term Cabinet, President Barack Obama on Monday urged Americans not to rush to judgment about who he will appoint to replace departing members of his team.

In a declaration tinged with the rhetoric of his re-election campaign, Obama asserted: “We’re not going backwards, we’re going forward.”

Scrutiny has been mounting over the number of women and minorities that will surround the nation’s first black president in his second term. Cabinet members who are departing at the end of his first term — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — are being replaced largely by white males. But in the final White House news conference of his first term, Obama brushed off that criticism, asking for critics to hold their tongues until the remaining vacancies have been filled.

“I’m very proud that in the first four years, we had as diverse, if not a more diverse, White House and a Cabinet than any in history,” Obama said. “I intended to continue that, because it turns out when you look for the very best people, given the incredible diversity of this country, you’re going to end up with a diverse staff.”

Running through a list of high-profile positions filled by women during his first term — such as Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — Obama said women comprised 50 percent of his White House staff during his first four years, not to mention the two women he nominated to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

Still, Obama’s appeal for patience was unlikely to quell the concerns of members of his own party who have publicly fretted whether Obama’s Cabinet and the tight cadre of advisers who will have his ear over the next four years will end up almost entirely male and white, in stark contrast to the diverse coalition of women, Hispanics and minorities that helped give Obama a second term.

“It’s as embarrassing as hell,” Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., one of the longest-serving African-American members of Congress, said last week.

Obama nominated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to replace Clinton at the State Department after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is black, asked for her name to be removed from consideration. Republicans had blasted Rice over her initial comments about the attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is Hispanic, stepped down last week, adding to a list of departures that includes EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who is black. Obama has not yet announced who he will nominate to fill those roles. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is staying for Obama’s second term.

The president has announced his picks to fill two other top jobs, nominating former Sen. Chuck Hagel to run the Defense Department and Obama’s chief of staff, Jack Lew, to serve as treasury secretary. The two leading candidates to replace Lew at the White House are both male.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is of Japanese-American descent, will stay on, a White House official said last week. A spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that he too will keep his job in Obama’s second term.

An Education Department official also said Secretary Arne Duncan would remain in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet into a second term. That official disclosed the decision on the condition of anonymity because a public announcement had not been made.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Woman killed in crash on Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Most Read