As any baseball team will tell you, it’s good to have a farm team.
Back in his first term, President Obama put together the most diverse Cabinet ever. Thirteen of his 22 Cabinet-level members were white. There were seven women in all, four African Americans, three Asian Americans and two Latinos in that first cabinet.
This time, 18 of the 22 jobs (assuming nominee Samantha Powers is confirmed as U.N. ambassador) are filled by white appointees. There are now eight women in the Cabinet — though that will go down to six with the departures next month of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills.
(It will go back up to seven if Latino organizations are successful in efforts to have a Hispanic woman named head of the Small Business Administration.)
But so far there are only two African Americans, one Asian American and one Latino in the Cabinet — and two of those four are holdovers.
It’s not that the Obama administration didn’t make efforts to find minorities for those jobs. And there’s the increasingly serious problem that good candidates — especially those who know the confirmation process has spiraled out of control — are declining to participate.
One problem, a former administration official observed, is that the White House boxed itself in by having no minorities in the deputy posts after Cabinet members left agencies such as State, Defense, Treasury, Labor, Energy, Commerce, Transportation, Interior, and EPA.
Minority groups have been pressing for more appointments at the deputy, undersecretary and assistant secretary levels to increase the pool of experienced minorities when top jobs open up.
The administration points to examples of minorities successfully moving up to top jobs — Katherine Archuleta, a chief of staff to former Labor secretary Hilda Solis, now runs the Office of Personnel Management, and new Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who had been an assistant attorney general.
Obama met Tuesday with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Tuesday and, according to a White House summary, assured them he was committed to diversity in his administration.
Obama “has made it a priority to fill the ranks of his administration with appointees (with) diverse skills and backgrounds,” White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told us, so “future presidents can tap a personnel pipeline” of experienced and diverse candidates. In other words, they’re working on it.
Well, there’s likely to be some more top-level openings in the next couple years.