America`s first black president criticized for white male cabinet
By Ian Simpson
January 10, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama announces his nomination of White House chief of staff and budget expert Jack Lew (R) as his next treasury secretary, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (Reuters - The first black U.S. president is coming under fire from some of his own Democratic Party for naming a stream of white men to key cabinet and leadership posts in his second administration.
President Barack Obama on Thursday named Jack Lew as his Treasury secretary, the fourth white male he has named to the most prized cabinet posts in recent weeks.
Lew`s nomination follows Obama`s pick of Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. He has also named former Senator Chuck Hagel to be defense Secretary and John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
Against this, he lost the first Hispanic woman in the cabinet when Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation on Wednesday. And last month Lisa Jackson, who is black, announced she was stepping down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It`s embarrassing as hell,” New York Democrat Charles Rangel, one of the most senior black members of Congress, said of the Obama appointments.
New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, whose state has the only all-female delegation in Congress, described the appointments as “disappointing.”
“We need a government that looks like America so we can address the concerns that we hear from across the spectrum,” she said.
Republicans joined in the criticism with former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee accusing Obama of waging a “war on women,” using the same words Democrats coined to criticize Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the election campaign last year.
“Now a lot of those females who supported Barack Obama are scratching their heads, and they`re saying, `Whoa! How come there is so much testosterone in the Obama Cabinet and so little estrogen?`” the former Arkansas governor said on his radio show.
Obama beat Romney 55 percent to 43 percent among women, according to Reuters/Ipsos exit polling on Election Day. He also won large majorities of the African-American and Hispanic vote.
DIVERSITY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
Diversity in the United States is usually defined as including women and racial minorities, especially Hispanics and African-Americans. U.S. political pundits parse polling data of women, Hispanics, African Americans and other groups for signs of voting patterns.
They track the “gender gap,” which is the percentage difference between Democratic and Republican support among women. Since Obama`s re-election in November, many analysts have noted the rising percentage of U.S. ethnic minorities and described his victory as a reflection of changing demography.
The criticism of Obama is surprising because Republicans usually are the party accused of insensitivity to diversity.
Former President George W. Bush deflected this by pointing to the two secretaries of state during his eight years in office -- African-Americans Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. They were followed by Hillary Clinton.
If confirmed by the Senate, Kerry will be the first white male to hold the top U.S. diplomatic post in more than a decade.
Almost overlooked in the criticism is that the White House announced this week that Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, will stay on as the nation`s senior legal officer.
Obama also was widely reported to be considering an African-American woman, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as Secretary of State. She pulled her name from consideration because of Republican objections to her statements about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
White House spokesman Jay Carney urged critics on Wednesday to make their judgments only after Obama had completed his team.
“Women are well represented in the president`s senior staff,” he told reporters, noting that his team included Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University`s Center for American Women in Politics, which tracks women in elective office, said Obama`s choices were a missed opportunity to put women into powerful jobs such as heading the Pentagon.
“A case could be made that Barack Obama won on the strength of the support that he had with women, given the gender gap,” she told Reuters.
With women filling 36 percent of Cabinet posts in his first term, Obama had the highest percentage of women in top jobs of any president other than fellow Democrat Bill Clinton, she said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Greg McCune abd David Brunnstrom)
© 2013 Reuters Limited
Could President Obama use some `binders full of women` in choosing his cabinet?
The Globe and Mail
January 10, 2013
As President Obama fills key cabinet positions, some are quipping that he should reach for Mitt Romney`s `binders full of women`
President Barack Obama might consider borrowing Mitt Romney`s binders full of women – as the running joke goes in the Twittersphere.
Women voters – who made up a larger share of the electorate than men and swung to the incumbent by a 12-point margin – were instrumental in Mr. Obama`s November election win. But as he names his second-term cabinet – looking to fill key positions opened up by departing members – there is some disappointment.
“The face of power that President Obama has chosen to present to the country and the world with his second-term Cabinet picks is striking — except for the African American president at the top of the pyramid — for its retro look, white and male. It`s “Mad Men” Goes to Washington, except Peggy`s leaving,” writes the Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.
Mr. Obama is set to name Jacob Lew today (1:30 p.m. ET), his current chief of staff, as his nominee to replace the outgoing Timothy Geithner at the Treasury department – ending a week of key second-term cabinet announcements.
“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…,” writes Bloomberg News columnist Margaret Carlson.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 36 per cent of Mr. Obama`s first term cabinet included women, higher than the percentage in President George W. Bush`s first term (19 per cent) and second term (24 per cent) cabinets – but lower than President Bill Clinton`s second term (41 per cent).
Here is a list of the second-term Obama appointees so far – all still need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate: Senator John Kerry replacing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Hagel replacing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and White House counterterrorism adviser filling the job of America`s top spy master at the CIA. White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew for the job of Treasury Secretary would make the fourth white male nomination.
Initially, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, an African American woman, was in the running to become the next secretary of state. But a backlash led her to withdraw her name. Mr. Hagel has also been a controversial pick to Republicans who see the former GOP senator as a maverick who opposed the Iraq troops surge. However, Mr. Obama has committed to fighting for his secretary of defence pick. Michele Fluornoy, who served as undersecretary of defence, was reportedly on the shortlist and would have been the department`s first woman Secretary of Defence.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked whether diversity was a consideration as Mr. Obama`s chooses his cabinet. Mr. Carney said the president “values diversity.”
“But the goal in the end is to find the very best individuals for these specific positions… And that will be what guides him as he makes further decisions,” said Mr. Carney.
The growing talk of the lack of representation in Mr. Obama`s cabinet picks has extended to his advisers.
A New York Times photo published this week show Mr. Obama with his senior advisers in the Oval Office has the following cheeky cutline: “President Obama on Dec. 29 with senior advisers in the Oval Office. The only woman facing the President was (look very closely) Valerie Jarrett, whose leg is just visible in front of the desk.” In other words, ten white male advisers and an obscured senior adviser, Ms. Jarrett.
As noted by Politico`s Mike Allen this morning, the White House delivered a bit of “pushback” to the way the photo framed the White House gender balance. The White House used its online “Photo of the Day” stream to release a photo showing Mr. Obama meeting with senior advisers in the Oval Office – three of the 8 advisers pictured are women.
The Obama constituency – women, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics – were all represented in the president`s first term cabinet.
But on Wednesday, Labour Secretary Hilda Solis – a Hispanic-American woman and former California congresswoman – announced that she is stepping down.
“Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart,” said Ms. Solis. “As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle-class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve.”
Lisa Jackson, the first African American to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which is a Cabinet-rank position – announced earlier that she would be stepping down. Steve Chu, the first Asian American to hold the position of Energy Secretary, is not expected to serve a second term. Mr. Obama`s key constituencies will be looking closely to see how the president fills those cabinet openings.
A report published Wednesday by Politico suggested that three Obama cabinet members – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder and Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is Japanese American – are expected to continue in their positions during the second term.
©2013 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Iran paper says US pro-Israel lobby concerned about Obama`s choices
BBC Monitoring Middle East
January 11, 2013
Text of commentary by Ali Vadaye` headlined: “Choosing options for the heads of the CIA and the Pentagon has become troublesome; dilemma for Obama`s Intelligence Men” published by Iranian newspaper Mardom Salari on 9 January
Obama, who is preparing himself for the second four-year presidency term of the United States, is determined to implement a number of fundamental changes in key posts. Obama can announce his decision next week. If his decision is approved, Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff will replace Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary. According to reports, by the end of the current month, Timothy Geithner will resign as treasury secretary. Jack Lew has been White House chief of staff since last January and before that he served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Last November, the Huffington Post had reported the possible replacement of Timothy Geithner by Jack Lew. Jack Lew became well known during Clinton`s rule and at the time he played an important and fundamental role in the negotiations that led to the approval of Clinton`s historic 1997 budget law. The appointment of Jack Lew as treasury secretary indicates that during his second term in office Obama intends to prioritize financial and budget policies in a Congress that is divided over these issues.
This appointment is not considered a controversial one and it is merely a strategic economic change. However, Obama`s choices for the Pentagon and the CIA have been problematic. General Petraeus was the former director of the CIA, who was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had had extramarital affairs. Certain experts attribute the main reason for Petraeus` resignation to his weak performance during his time as director of the CIA. The murder of the US ambassador to Libya and the three US diplomats initiated a wave of criticism against the Obama administration and Petraeus` performance. Accordingly, as it was mentioned earlier, yesterday, Barack Obama introduced the former Republican senator Chuck Hagel for the post of US secretary of defense and John Brennan as the new director of the CIA. Their approval by the US Senate may not be easily achieved. Contention may arise from powerful and influential Jewish lobbies that cannot tolerate the least criticism and may now have to put up with choices, in the most sensitive security and military posts, with whom they have been incompatible in the past. The Republicans that have more friendly ties with Tel Aviv will now attack the White House`s black leader`s choice more than anybody else.
The Republicans accuse their former fellow party member Chuck Hagel of having hostile standpoints regarding Israel and flexibility toward Iran. Senator John McCain has said that he has “serious reservations” regarding Hagel`s standpoints concerning a widespread spectrum of issues related to US national security that he will put forward during the Senate meeting to assess his eligibility. Critics fear that his appointment as secretary of defense will increase pressure on Israel with the purpose of unwanted compromise. His appointment as secretary of defense may also lead to broken ties between Barack Obama, the US president, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Zionist regime`s prime minister; ties that have already cooled considerably. Reuven Rivlin, the Zionist regime`s parliamentary speaker and member of the Likud Party, which represents Netanyahu, said: “We are concerned over Hagel`s statements made in the past and his stance regarding Israel.” On Monday, in the evening programs, the Zionist regime`s television networks introduced Hegel as an individual who acts coldly toward Israel.
In 2008, a book was published written by a former US Department of State official, in which Hagel had been quoted as saying: “The Jewish lobby has intimidated many people here (US Congress). I am a US senator and not an Israeli senator.” Lindsay Graham, a senior Republican senator told CNN: “This appointment is a blatant challenge by the president to all of us who support Israel.” In response to the barrage of criticism by the Republicans, the former Republican senator told a local newspaper in Nebraska: “There is not the least evidence indicating that I am anti-Israel an d I have never cast a single vote in the Senate that would inflict the least damage on Israel.” The introduction of Obama`s choice as director of the CIA also had its own share of problems. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, did not approve of John Brennan, the candidate for the post of CIA director by Barack Obama, not because of existing criticism but because of the government`s indifference in responding to questions regarding the attack on the US Consulate in the city of Benghazi in Libya on 11 September 2012. Senator Graham stated: “I have not forgotten the events that took place in Benghazi and there are still numerous questions regarding the events that took place before this attack, during the attack, and afterward. Therefore, I do not imagine that we can approve anyone as director of the CIA as long as these questions remain unanswered.” He also referred to remarks by Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, who had said several days after the attack that this attack was unplanned violence in response to the broadcasting of a film that was offensive to Islamic holy beliefs.”
Brennan is also criticized for his support for violent interrogation methods by the CIA. He has meetings with Obama almost every day. He was also once introduced in 2008 as a choice for the post of director of the CIA, but because of the questions that had been proposed concerning his connection - as a senior CIA official - with violent interrogation methods during George Bush`s presidency, he withdrew from being considered for this post. Senator John McCain issued a statement on Monday 7 January, stating that intends to question Brennan regarding the “enhanced interrogation techniques and his open defense of these methods.” Brennan is one of the CIA`s experienced officials and he is currently the US president`s adviser in anti-terrorist actions.
John Brennan has been working for the CIA for 25 years and during Obama`s first term, he was one of Obama`s closest advisers. He was present in many of the secret security meetings and has given the president advice. Brennan is fluent in Arabic and was one of the main planners of the attack operation against Usamah Bin-Ladin`s secret residence in Pakistan and his subsequent killing. Obama, who recently averted the fiscal cliff saga, said during a press conference in the White House that Hagel is “a leader that the US military deserve.” Obama added that the 66 year old Hagel has always been a “defender of the US military” and praised him for his transparty outlook. The US president added that Mr Hagel believes in the necessity of maintaining the Unites States` role as leader but stressed that he considers military action to be the final option. Obama said: “More important than anything else, Chuck knows that war is not a mental concept.”
Hagel succeeded in receiving two medals of honor during the Vietnam War for “exceptional military service.” After his introduction by the US president, Hagel said that he will try to maintain the high standards of former defense ministers and strengthen the United States` bonds with its allies. The possible CIA director John Brennan, has also said that he will endeavor for the CIA`s performance to reflect the freedoms and values for which “the United States holds a high place.”
In addition to senator John Kerry, who Obama introduced to the Senate as a substitute for Hilary Clinton, the US secretary of state, Hagel and Brennan will form the essence of Obama`s national security team during his second presidential term. Undoubtedly, a review of Hagel`s eligibility will be followed by a political struggle in the US Senate.
Source: Mardom-Salari website, Tehran, in Persian 09 Jan 13
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