Obama urges patience to critics of white male nominees
January 14th, 2013
02:15 PM ET
1 year ago

Obama urges patience to critics of white male nominees

Washington (CNN) – Just wait and see.

That was President Barack Obama's response Monday to critics who have questioned why his second-term cabinet nominees have all been white males.

"I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they've seen all my appointments, who is in the White House staff and who is in my cabinet, before they rush to judgment," Obama said during his Monday news conference, which focused mostly on the upcoming debate over raising the federal debt limit.

Since winning re-election in November, Obama has made four high-profile nominations for posts in his cabinet, including tapping Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state. If confirmed, he'll replace Hillary Clinton, the highest profile woman in Obama's administration.

Obama was originally said to be considering U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for the post at State, but continued questions over her statements following the terror attack at an American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, caused her to withdraw her name from consideration.

Obama pointed to Clinton Monday as an example of a high-profile member of his team who is a woman, though he didn't mention her by name.

"If you think about my first four years, the person who probably had the most influence on my foreign policy was a woman," the president said, adding later that "one woman, admittedly a high profile one, is leaving the administration - has already left the administration - and I have made a replacement."

The three other prominent cabinet positions with second-term openings – secretary of defense, secretary of the treasury, and CIA director - were previously held by white men. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan have been tapped for those posts, respectively.

While Obama's record of appointing women to top posts doesn't differ significantly from former President George W. Bush, many take the issue with Obama's appointments since he ran as a champion of women's issues during both of his presidential election campaigns, unlike his predecessor.

In the 2012 campaign, he mocked his rival Mitt Romney for saying that as governor of Massachusetts he relied on "binders full of women" to find qualified females for government posts.

"I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women," Obama said at a campaign rally the day after Romney made the remark at a presidential debate.

While his second-term nominees thus far have all been white men, many of his top advisers in the White House are women, including Valerie Jarrett, arguably his most trusted aide.

Other top White House staffers who are women include Alyssa Mastromonaco, a deputy chief of staff, and Kathy Ruemmler, the White House counsel. A second deputy chief of staff, Nancy-Ann DeParle, announced last week she was leaving her post in the West Wing for a job at the Brookings Institution.

Though men's names have been but forward to take the top cabinet posts, other spots at the departments of transportation, commerce and labor remain to be filled. Obama will also need to choose a new chief of staff and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

"I think until you've seen what my overall team looks like, it's premature to assume that somehow we're going backwards," Obama said Monday. "We're not going backwards, we're going forward."

The president also confronted a question about his attitude toward socializing with lawmakers in Washington, which he has done little of since entering office in 2009. Some critics attribute the near-constant stalemate between the White House and Congress with Obama's unwillingness to get to know Republican lawmakers personally.

"Most people who know me know I'm a pretty friendly guy, and I like a good party," Obama said, reminding his audience that a round of golf in 2011 with GOP House Speaker John Boehner didn't end in a grand bargain on reducing the federal debt.

Ultimately, Republicans on Capitol Hill wouldn't want to publically mingle with the president since it could hurt them politically, Obama said.

"I think there are a lot of Republicans at this point that feel that given how much energy has been devoted in some of the media that's preferred by Republican constituencies to demonize me, that it doesn't look real good socializing with me," he said, singling out former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as an example. Crist, a Republican, supported Obama's stimulus plan in 2009 to the chagrin of some in his party. Last year Crist officially became a Democrat.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Woman In California

    Ultimately, Republicans on Capitol Hill wouldn't want to publically mingle with the president since it could hurt them politically, Obama said.

    Among other things.................

    January 14, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. CBP

    The news conference showed us just how incompetent the news writer have become. They asked the sam question over and over again even thought he President answered it. The President did not give the answer they wanted and these reporters have decided that they do not need to ask relevant questions.

    The Republicans who choose to hold us all hostage are not helping us at all. Instead they are harming this country in the name of their own views. Those who help them do this, the leaders in Congress should be sent packing with them. We need people who will work together in a give and take manner to bring about the best legislation and the best outcomes for this country. No one has all the answers and we need people to work together. IF they cannot then they need to resign and go home. Allow others to come to Washington to do the people's work.

    January 14, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. Chris

    Yeah right, just you wait and see...I will have women in my cabinet. Someone get me the damage control team, tell them we need Romney's binder before this blows up in my face.

    January 14, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. Boo

    If Obama's picks are qualified I don't care if they have two heads and are pink with purple polka dots.

    January 14, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. freedom

    George W. Bush had the most diverse cabinet from the moment he took office.

    January 14, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. George

    Does a demographic, any demographic, vote for a candidate based on the color or gender of his Cabinet nominees? They're crazy if they do. How many African Americans voted for Obama thinking they'd be the next secretary of defense? How many white men over 50 voted for Romney expecting to go to the Supreme Court? The quality of the nominees he chooses counts, of course, but ultimately it's what the candidate promises the other 300 million people in this country who won't be going to Cabinet meetings that determines (or should determine) how someone votes, and if he gets their support.

    January 14, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Wake up People!

    So I guess the GOP controlled media is determined to make this POTUS look bad. Has everyone forgotten, the first name floated for SoS was Susan Rice who was vilified for Benghazi??

    Sniffit was so right. This POTUS could walk on water and the first thing the GOP would say is, "you mean he couldn't fly."

    As my granny used to say," damned if he do, damned if he don't."

    January 14, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Facts don't Lie

    If Obama went and 4 Black men for the positions he just made the far right would have a FIT...Glenn Beck would revive his "Obama is a racist" claim and it mattered very little how qualified they might have been. President Obama has the problem that being the first non white POTUS any position he picks a minority for is seen by some on the right as an affirmative action pick. Just think had he picked a Black woman for the SCOTUS....first thing brought up would be race. Yet Bush or Clinton could have done it with little talk of being a racist pick. Too bad but that is they way it is.

    January 14, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. REGinAZ

    I don't object to or fault responsible "conservative" policies but the Republicans have literally become owned and controlled "puppets", serving only "the money" their masters, and together they use their power, influence and money to promote hype and propaganda aimed to con the people and manipulate public opinion. The Republicans have gone way too far to the right and they simply have no conscience to bring them back. Using deception to scare over taxes and over socialism, actually with the intention to camouflage as "conservative" their concentration on serving only "the money" while they belligerently disregard their responsibilities to the majority, they literally seek to return to "more of the same", Bush-Cheney style that cost us so much, with the only possible result being "more of the same". Lets see more moderates from both parties, including reasonable and responsible "conservative" policies that are not just intended to allow exploitation by the few and dupe the majority, but rather with a concentration on serving, not just deceiving, the middle-class.

    January 14, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. betterdays

    He needs a Perino-type. At least a hot female press secretary would make the distortions and outright lies more palatable.

    January 14, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    As a grandmother, I'm afraid some of the younger women coming into government are going to hurt themselves if they aren't careful. A person should be chosen on capability-not gender. I am hopeful they will receive many appointments in this administration, but only if they are the most qualified.

    January 14, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. Moose

    @boo im with you, however a last terrible 4 years in the crapper he needs to do something, if they are white who cares.
    in several states (ive heard) florida for fact they are lowering the test scores to pass different races, they have recomended that Asians (seem to be the smartest) have one score to meet white another, hispanic another and black another. scary isnt it???

    January 14, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Jonah

    Its Okay. Its Obama so he doesn't need diversity or oversight.

    January 14, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  14. John

    Why is this significant? How about the President appoints who he feels are the best people for the job? Isn't that a novel idea? Where is it written that he has to hire a woman or minority to be in his cabinet?

    January 14, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. 2012liberal

    Compancy over diversity please.

    January 14, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. James Bond

    Susan rice was an excellent choice, the republicans are cting like scorned children, ill show you mentallity has no value towards a solution. they just lie, and try to scare you into voting their way, does not take much to realize they work for the nuevo rich, and anyone who is not very wealthy has no business voting for them, your foolish and part of the problem if you do

    January 14, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. freedom

    @ John
    This is significant because Obama ran his entire vicious campaign driving a wedge between races and genders – and this proves that he lied and manipulated to get into office – that is significant.

    January 14, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. Joi Gibson

    Conversely, why would he want to socialize with folks who call him all vile names and accuse him of being a communist, Marxist, socialist, not born in America, etc. He'd rather spend what time he has with his wife and children – oh the horror! And the so-called press corps, they make up these non-troversies and it becomes fodder for all the other media. Wonder why the so-called media does not go after Republicans for their blatant obstructionism or call them out for their hypocrisy when it comes to the debt.

    Looking for the ceremonies on January 21, 2013!!!!

    January 14, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |