Mixing it up in the Cabinet

Al Kamen
Columnist February 20, 2013

With President Obama expected to soon name Gina McCarthy as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he’s adding women to his Cabinet at a pretty decent clip. But he’s running out of chances to ensure racial diversity in his circle of top advisers.

Last month, funnyman Jon Stewart zinged the White House for its “Zero Dark Appointees” in a “Daily Show” segment about Obama’s all-white initial round of picks (for secretary of state, defense secretary, Treasury secretary and CIA director). But close to two nominations later, it could be no laughing matter.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

The drain of minorities from the Cabinet is evident: Two of its four black members and both its Hispanic members have left or have announced they are leaving. Only one of the two Asian Americans who served during Obama’s first term remains.

Meanwhile, the White House will have only seven Cabinet-level posts to fill: the secretaries of commerce, labor, energy and transportation; the U.S. trade representative; and the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration.

If the rest of the Cabinet remains stable, Obama will have to name a minority to five of those seven jobs to maintain the level of diversity he reached in his first term.


With President Obama expected to soon name Gina McCarthy, above, as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he’s adding women to his Cabinet at a pretty decent clip. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Couldn’t be a shortage of qualified candidates, some say. In fact, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) recently complained that the White House hasn’t made use of the “binder” of suitable nominees that the Congressional Black Caucus provided.

“The Black Caucus of Congress . . . sent 61 names to the White House,” Hastings reportedly said late last month at a conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. “Time went by. Not one of that 61 was selected — not one.”

A spokeswoman for the CBC said she wasn’t aware of the list but pointed to letters written by the group’s chairwoman, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), backing three CBC members: Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) for commerce secretary, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) for labor secretary and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) for transportation secretary.

The password is . . .

Sounds as if Philip Mudd , a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, had a bad day.

A number of people apparently got an e-mail from him Wednesday morning with the subject line “Need your help! (Phil Mudd).”

“Hope you get this on time,” Mudd began. “I made a trip to Manila (Philippines) and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and personal effects therein.”

Oh, no! “The embassy has just issued me a temporary passport,” he said, so there’s some good news, “but I have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager.”

“I have made contact with my bank,” he said, “but it would take me 3-5 working days to access funds in my account” — wouldn’t you know it? — “but the bad news is my flight will be leaving in less than 8-hrs from now but I am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let me leave until I settle the bills.”

This sounds really serious. “I need your help/LOAN financially and I promise to make the refund once I get back home,” he wrote, “you are my last resort and hope. Please let me know if I can count on you and I need you to keep checking your email because it’s the only way I can reach you. Thanks!”

Mudd, a former high-ranking CIA counterterrorism official and former deputy director of the FBI’s national security branch, is waiting for your response.

Don’t do it. This scam is a variant of the Nigerian classic about how “my late uncle left me $10 million but I need to raise money to claim the inheritance.” This is an oft-used tale of woe about traveling abroad, getting stuck without passport or money and such. (Perhaps a claim of being stranded on a crippled cruise ship would be more credible?)

His e-mail account must have been hacked. Seems it can happen to anyone. (He assures us that he’s changed his password.)

Traveling with baggage

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not exactly known for a droll sense of humor.

But when the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), came calling Tuesday in Kabul — his first stop on his first trip abroad as chairman — Karzai seemed to be trying to tweak Menendez.

Menendez has come under intense fire of late over ties to and favors for a wealthy donor, Salomon Melgen . Menendez had to repay nearly $60,000 to Melgen for flights to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet. And questions have been raised about the senator’s support for a Dominican port-security contract in which Melgen had an investment.

Menendez has denied any intentional wrongdoing.

After their Kabul meeting, Karzai, whose notoriously corrupt regime has been much criticized by Washington, put out a news release with this headline:

“President Karzai: Fight against corruption requires earnest and sincere cooperation of the international community, particularly of the United States of America.”

Hmmm. Well, at least there won’t be a port-security problem in landlocked Afghanistan.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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