Binders closed: Rangel says mostly-male Obama picks 'embarrassing'
January 10th, 2013
12:12 PM ET
10 years ago

Binders closed: Rangel says mostly-male Obama picks 'embarrassing'

(CNN) - As President Barack Obama finalizes his cabinet picks heading into his second term, some are pointing to a noted lack of diversity among the select group.

And Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel says "it's embarrassing as hell." The congressman from New York pulled no punches Thursday when he chided the White House for not picking more women and minorities for the top level positions.

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"The questions I've heard are fair," he said on MSNBC. "The record does speak for itself."

Obama will nominate Jack Lew, his chief of staff, for Treasury Secretary on Thursday, and CNN has learned the likely contenders for his replacement at the White House are all men. This comes days after the president nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary, Sen. John Kerry for Secretary of State, and John Brennan, chief homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, to lead the CIA.

In making his point, Rangel cited another high-profile political name who took heat over questions about women's rights.

"We've been through all this with Mitt Romney, and we were very hard on Mitt Romney with his 'women binder' and a variety of things," Rangel said.

His comment referred to a presidential debate when Romney attempted to prove his support for gender equality by talking about how, as a former CEO, he tried to boost his workforce with more women.

"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women'," Romney said at the debate. His comment was quickly turned into a social media punch line.

Talking about what's shaping up to be the next Obama administration, Rangel said Thursday "there's no excuse" now that the president has been in office for a while.

"He's had four years to work the bench, to work the second team in the second term," the longtime congressman said. "These people should be just as experienced as any other Americans."

The White House, however, points to a number of women named to top jobs, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (who announced her resignation Wednesday), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was a top contender to replace Clinton at the State Department, but she withdrew her name from consideration last month.

The administration also says that more than half of the White House staff is made up of women, many in key senior leadership roles.

But Rangel added when "women and minorities don't get a chance to rub elbows," then people at the top have a harder time getting to know them and their experiences.

"And if you don't know it, you don't use it," he said.

- CNN's Halimah Abdullah contributed to this report.

Filed under: Charlie Rangel • President Obama
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Not to mention that his only SCOTUS picks were 2 women as well. This is a farsical non-issue. Apparently, Rangel watched Scarborough's idiotic show this morning and mindlessly espoused the GOP/Teatroll talking points. If this is the only way the GOP/Tetrolls think they're going to gain ground on the female and minority votes....desperately flailing around with silly "gotcha" attempts like this...then it's going to be easier to arrange their demise than I previously thought.

    January 10, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. Pander Bear

    Being a complete embarrassment himself, Congressman Rangel knows what he's talking about. Another useless non-issue put forth by yet another worthless member of Congress trying to get attention.

    January 10, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. arnez hill

    Charlie Rangel you should be ashamed of yourself you are so embarrassing to the state of New York into call the president embarrassing wow what is stretch.

    January 10, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Annadanna4

    He evidently must be getting his info from fox "news". I think he has been too busy with personal issues to know what is actually happening in the real world.

    January 10, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. Name VA865

    Danm if he do damn if he don't. .is he the first n only president to do
    This ????.

    January 10, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. stevetall

    Takes one to know one, Charlie. You're one of the few Democrats that I think should be out of office or in jail for all of your embarrassing antics. Some guys will do anything to get in the press, right? Time to pipe down.

    January 10, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  7. Howard

    Hillary was unquestionably the best choice for SecState, and she's proved it. She's also the best choice for the next President. And she does it on ABILITY.

    Cabinet posts are filled by people the President believes he can trust for advice and trust to manage their departments. Diversity is very desirable, but having the President's confidence is paramount.

    January 10, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Woman In California

    So picking two women for Supreme Court justices (LIFETIME POSITIONS) didn't count right?

    The truth is, Rangel has never gotten over the fact his slave master Hillary Clinton lost. The man is petty and ridiculous along with several other words I can't call him without being moderated out.

    January 10, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Jeff Cox

    Charlie Rangel is one of the LAST people in this country who should be lecturing someone else about being an embarrassment!

    January 10, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. GuestAgain

    When we can all drop the ethnicity/race designations that often precede "American" then and only then will equal footing be a reality. Exclluding American Indian for obvious reasons. As it is, diversity – affirmative action – whatever you choose to call it (i.e. racism) is out of control and fosters discrimination. Stand on your own two feet and work for what you get. That said, some EEO policies have their place in regard to the disparity between male and female wages/opportunities. one wants to be equal, that doesnt entitle them to anything.

    January 10, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Guy

    Rep. Rangel, you are taking affirmative action much too far. This is the Presidential Cabinet we're talking here, not the local liberal arts college. Race and gender should be a negligible factor compared to ability.

    January 10, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Ms Lulu

    We have to consider the fact that there just are not enough women who are in high enough positions to be considered for some of these roles. I think the tides are changing, but currently there are many women who don't have the experience that some of these nominees do only because during their careers they were not given opportunities like the men were and now they are not on the same level.

    January 10, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. silly liberals

    This is the first time I have ever said this because until now, I have had no reason to say it. Jay Carney actually told the truth and it may have been a slip when he said it is important to have people with the best qualifications for a job than someone who is picked for other reasons.

    Rangel and all other "ME" groups like the NAACP ande the CBC should be barred from service or treated like a hate group.

    January 10, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Tony

    Maybe Obama needs to ask Romney if he can borrow his binders full of women???

    January 10, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Hey, Charlie! Charlie! Mitt Romney lost, dude.

    January 10, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. TIm

    Obama has to pick whoever has the credentials for the jobs. I believe in diversity and try very hard in my professional life to enhance diversity. And as I am in engineering, I am well aware of the lack of women and certain minorities in my field and I try to be inclusive. If I have many applicants for opened positions and I have multiple people who equally qualify, I make every effort to ensure the composition of my picks reflect as close as possible to the wider society at large. However, sometimes, the best candidate is a white male or Asian male, in which case I still have to go with the best. Meritocracy still has to trump over affirmative action.

    January 10, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. just sayin

    obama can be more flexible in his second term. he doesn't need to pander to the women anymore. he already got their vote.

    January 10, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. ronk1957

    "Women and minorities" ? What happened to "Most Qualified" ? Let's say you just came home to find your house on fire with your family trapped inside. You quickly dial 911 for help but instead of getting one of the many qualified operators that applied for the job ,you get Chin Lee. Because of their new "diversity program the dispatch center hired Chin Lee, a recent chinese immigrant rice farmer who doesn't speak a word of english. It doesn't matter because they didn't have an oriental on the payroll. After being amazed at the sound coming out of the little contraption "He's never seen a telephone before" he promptly sends Animal Control to your house. Quickly the dog catcher arrives and asks you where the stray dog is. You tell him Idiot my house is on fire! He says That he doesn't do fires , you'll have to call 911 and talk to Chin Lee again. Thinking quickly you tell him the stray dog is inside your house and could he bring your wife and kids with him on his way out. So much for "diversity".

    January 10, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Enough is Enough

    Rangel is certainly an expert on embarrassment, if he wasn't in congress he would be in jail for tax evasion and more.

    January 10, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Logic N LA

    True inclusion means you pick the perosn you feel is best for the job and not based on color or gender. The President has shown he can mix up his nominations and as usual Rangel is just spouting off.

    January 10, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. GOP= Greed Over People (Party)


    January 10, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. Evergreen

    Did Rangel know that the President's first choice forSec of State was swift boated? Did he defend Ms. Rice against attacks by McCain and others? If he had, the President would probably have a well qualified woman in his cabinent.

    January 10, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |