Transportation pick would add to Cabinet diversity
April 29th, 2013
10:13 AM ET
1 year ago

Transportation pick would add to Cabinet diversity

(CNN) – If President Barack Obama still needed a reminder that diversity within his second term Cabinet was a contentious issue, he got one Saturday night.

"Mr. President, your hair is so white it can be a member of your Cabinet," jabbed Conan O'Brien at the annual correspondents' dinner in Washington, drawing laughs and some loud "ooos" from the crowd of political insiders.

On Monday, Obama will nominate Anthony Foxx to become transportation secretary, the first African-American pick for his second term cabinet. The post comes with vast oversight responsibility over the nation's roads, airports, railroads and seaways.

If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx would bring to two the number of African-Americans currently heading Cabinet agencies under Obama, joining Attorney General Eric Holder. In his first term, two other African-Americans – U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – served in Obama's Cabinet.

Announcing Foxx as Obama's pick for transportation secretary, the White House noted his achievements in opening a new runway at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, and his championing a new streetcar system in the Queen City. He also helped lead last summer's Democratic National Convention, which drew tens of thousands to Charlotte without any major logistical hiccups.

"As mayor of one of America's most vibrant cities, Anthony Foxx knows firsthand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy," the White House official said.

But picking Foxx will also help dispel the image of Obama naming only white men to top posts in his administration. The criticism began earlier this year, when the first Cabinet picks of Obama's second term – Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – were all white men.

After taking heat, Obama named several women to prominent roles, including Sylvia Mathews Burwell as director of his budget office and Mary Schapiro as the chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But groups like the Congressional Black Caucus cried foul, saying the lack of African-American nominees amounted to a snub for his most ardent supporters.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said in a weekly address for the CBC that Obama "has once again overlooked his most loyal constituency."

"President Obama has selected the lowest number of African American Cabinet members in 38 years, and fewer than his Republican predecessor George Bush who nominated four African Americans to his Cabinet," Thompson said on April 9.

The CBC's chairwoman, Rep. Marcia Fudge, wrote in a letter to Obama that "the people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country's diversity."

Obama himself disputed the notion his inner circle was lacking diversity, urging patience at a news conference in January.

"I'm very proud that in the first four years we had as diverse, if not more diverse, a White House and a Cabinet than any in history," he said on January 14. "And I intend to continue that, because it turns out that 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 and a diverse team."

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

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    I'm glad that the Cabinet is diverse, but the my ultimate concern is if the person being nominated for the position can do the job effectively. Mr. Foxx definitely fits the bill.

    April 29, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. much thunder..little rain

    what happen to,who is the best for the job...oh yea skin color...

    April 29, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Liberals (and I'm one) would do better to focus their energies on stopping the GOP agenda rather than fretting about how many white men are in Obama's cabinet.

    Focus, people.

    April 29, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. Borderless

    We will be a racist nation until we stop keeping score. Period.

    April 29, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  5. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    So, we should go from binders full of women to binders full of black people? We should nominate and vote in the MOST qualified people regardless of race, gender, and religious background. I'm ashamed of the pressure people are putting o the President.

    April 29, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. Chad

    The entire notion that the race illusion should be taken into account when hiring is absurd. Hire the best man or woman for the job and be done with it. When we follow this policy and diversity happens on it's own, equality will have been achieved.

    April 29, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. Lilli

    Sometimes pressure is necessary!! Our country is a rainbow of people therefore the President's cabinet should reflect that! More importantly, people of color are more than qualified since they must be twice as good! Oh well....this is America, therefore the color struggle continues as long as people are judged by their skintone ....

    April 29, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    This pick os totally about the corruption of political payback.........as Obama pays back his political crony for his support.

    April 29, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said in a weekly address for the CBC that Obama "has once again overlooked his most loyal constituency."
    -------------------------------------------------
    He hasn't.
    Rep. Thompson form the wonderful state of Mississippi better wake the hell up and act like he knows what this President has had to contend with and all the effective blocking of his cabinet nominees.
    Doesn't Rep Thompson realize that for MANY people on the Hill having a Black President is enough diversity to last them lifetime?
    We're in the second term of a President RE-elected by a true rainbow coalition. It is not over. It is just the beginning. Do not underestimate this President nor the legacy of across the board progress that he has envisioned for us, and for himself.
    We ARE moving FORWARD.

    April 29, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. David

    Whenever I hear anyone in America say, "Select the most qualified for the position", I'm remind of a recent 3-year study by a Rutgers Prof. that found 90% of white professionals and non-professionals secured 77% of their jobs over the life of their careers through personal contacts and personal recommendations, not based on their credentials and accomplishments. Hence, we pick and choose folks that we are comfortable with and unfortunately much of America is only comfortable with Black Americans singing, dancing and playing sports!!

    April 29, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    There, of course, were those poised and ready to see if the President would surround himself with African Americans and Latinos in his inner circle/cabinet. They would've pounced all over that.
    I believe the President found himself in a reverse racism type of situation by consciously going out of his way to appoint Whites, lest he'd accused by some of preferential treatment in his hiring practices.
    Once again he found and finds himself in a 'damn if you do and damned if you don't" situation. To his everlasting credit he has walked that line like a pro.
    Personally, it makes no difference to me. I ask for the BEST to help him lead the nation and I don't care what color or ethnic package that best comes in.
    Help my President be the best President he can be. May he surround himself with the best minds, after all he will never be able to please everyone.

    April 29, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. Wake up People!

    I hate the pressure being put on the POTUS but David's post is SPOT ON. I have worked in places where the admin. Asst., whom happened to be friends with the owner didn't even know how to send a package via UPS or FedEx.

    April 29, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Name lynn

    Canon your jokes got boooos an ooooo's not funny get a mirror an take a short look at yourself. Then go back to your show an the laughs on you.

    April 29, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Wake up People!

    Did I mention that person made a heck of a lot more money than I did too? She even got promoted. But was dumb as dirt.

    April 29, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Wake up People!

    I also agree with Dominican Mama. He's damned if he do, damned if he don't.

    April 29, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    Amen Dominican mama 4 Obama & David is right as well. This is the problem in this country. We find ourselves for the first time with a BLACK man at the most influential role in the US. He is trying not to show favortism while also not trying to be racist. If he appoints mainly latinos and blacks, he's racist and biased. If he appoints too many whites, he's being an Uncle Tom, elitist, and not trying to help advance minorities. We should focus on the resumes and abilities of these people and not their race. I think that is what he is trying to do, and somehow it's still not enough for the people who are biased against him for exactly that, his race. If this were a white president, the question wouldn't even arise.

    April 29, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Wake up People!

    Romney is still not my hero and Dominican Mama.

    That's the whole problem in a nutshell. Many, many people in this country and many on Capital Hill don't feel Barack Obama is qualified to be POTUS but some of those same people thought Sarah Palin was. Go figure. When have you ever seen so much disrespect directed at a POTUS and the First Family?? I'll tell you, NEVER.

    April 29, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Wake up People!
    . I have worked in places where the admin. Asst., whom happened to be friends with the owner didn't even know how to send a package via UPS or FedEx.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I read David's post. No surprises there. But.....
    I believe that Blacks need to get as good if not better at this whole networking thingy. And not just Blacks but ALL so-called minorities: Women, Latinos, Asians, Gays. "Each one should pull one" should be our motto. Don't blame Charlie if we get caught up ensuring that we arrive and others do not. We need to refer each other,take more classes, be on track with new technology, and look out for one another.We can be better networkers. Let's face that. We can also get better, whenever possible, at pulling each other up and helping each other out.
    While David's post is quite true we can do more to take control of not only our own professional lives but launching and advancing the careers of others amongst us.
    IMO.

    April 29, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. Andy

    Not enough diversity until an atheist is in the cabinet

    April 29, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  20. Ed1

    Make sure you keep him in Washington he has done enough damage to Charlotte and will take years to get out of. I guess that's why he wouldn't run for re-election had nothing to do with this pending appointment Foxx knew he didn't have a chance in winning.

    Our tax dollars at waste again now the whole Country will suffer thanks for nothing Obama. Guess you had to pay back your your debt to Charlotte.

    April 29, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Wake up People!

    Did I mention that person made a heck of a lot more money than I did too? She even got promoted. But was dumb as dirt
    -------------------------------------------------
    Babe times have changed...but not really.
    Strive to be the best. That hasn't changed. Stay abreast of new developments. That hasn't changed. Come early, leave late. That hasn't changed. Make your anger make you better. That hasn't changed.
    Once you are the best don't take crap from anybody. THAT HAS changed!! Wink!!

    April 29, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Wake up People!

    Once again I agree Dominican Mama. But I also know that doesn't always help. Our POTUS is very intelligent, yet that doesn't stop certain people from calling him stupid and unqualified.

    April 29, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |