President Obama’s second-term Cabinet selections have been sharply criticized by just about everyone from Republicans to most every Democratic constituency: women, blacks, gays, Latinos and Asian Americans.
Representatives of several Asian American groups met last week in the Roosevelt Room with Obama; Valerie Jarrett, his senior adviser; Cecilia Muñoz, director of domestic policy; Tina Tchen, chief of staff to Michelle Obama; and Paulette Aniskoff, who heads the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The groups hardly expected to match the first term’s record three Asian Americans in the Cabinet. But one concern was that two of the Asian American Cabinet members — Gary Locke at Commerce and Steven Chu at Energy — are gone. And Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki isn’t expected to stay all four years, they figured, so they may be down to zero in a few years.
But their primary personnel concern was down the road, and the lack of Asian Americans in the sub-Cabinet jobs — deputy secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.
“These folks run the day-to-day operations” at the agencies, said Gregory Cendana , executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and they “form the bench for future administrations.”
But the bench has gotten much thinner of late. There has never been an Asian American at the deputy secretary level in this administration, and there are, or will soon be, openings in about half of the deputy secretary slots.
There had been only one Asian American undersecretary in the first term, an acting undersecretary of energy, and he’s gone, we’re told. So that’s zero of about 60.
None of the four Asian Americans serving as counsels general at the agencies are left. (They can’t find lawyers in this country?)
There are perhaps 10 Asian Americans in jobs at the assistant secretary level, the groups estimate. But that’s of a total of some 300 assistant secretary jobs.
Granted, Asian Americans/
Pacific Islanders are only 6 percent of the population and perhaps 3 percent of the vote. But they are the fastest-growing demographic, and 73 percent of them voted for Obama in 2012.
To paraphrase Mel Brooks, it’s good to be president. Really good.
Vice president? Well, not so much — at least when it comes to selling books.
Browsing through President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s financial disclosure forms, we noticed that Biden checked the “less than $201” box on his income from Random House for his 2007 memoir “Promises to Keep.” (It’s a fine book.)
Obama, meanwhile, checked the box “$100,000 to $1 million” for royalties last year on “Dreams From My Father,” first published in 1995, when he was running for state Senate, and “$50,000 to $100,000” last year for “The Audacity of Hope,” published in 2006, when he was a U.S. senator.
(A 2010 book, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” netted between $100,000 and $1 million, but the proceeds go to the Fisher House Foundation.)
We’re hearing that Danny Russel, a 20-plus-year State Department veteran who is senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, is heading over to Foggy Bottom to be assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
His Foreign Service career included stints in Tokyo and Seoul. Russel, a protege of foreign policy guru and former U.N. ambassador Tom Pickering, has been working the Asia portfolio at the NSC since 2009. Russel was on board during Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent first trip to China as secretary of state.
Kerry’s been moving to fill other posts as his former Senate Foreign Relations Committee and personal staff start drifting to State.
Alec Gerlach, Kerry’s former press secretary on the Hill, an Obama 2008 campaign operative and also a Glover Park Group veteran, is settling in as Kerry’s personal spokesman in the public affairs operation.
We’re hearing that Shannon Smith, a longtime Senate Foreign Relations Committee Africa hand, is to be deputy assistant secretary in State’s Africa bureau, working with another committee colleague, Tamara Klajn.
The committee’s chief counsel, Andrew Keller, joins the legal team at the department, and Greg Kausner, who handled arms control and arms sales at the committee has joined the political military team as a deputy assistant secretary.
Anthony Wier, who handled nonproliferation matters for the committee, joins the policy planning shop, along with Perry Cammack (for the Middle East) and Melanie Nakagawa (for energy and environment), working for their old committee boss, David McKean.
One more deputy secretaryship opens up on Friday, when the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Scott Gould, a Navy veteran, finishes his last day.
Gould, who announced his departure three weeks ago, was an assistant secretary of commerce in the Bill Clinton administration and for the past four years held the No. 2 VA job.
Gould had also been deputy assistant secretary for finance and management at the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration. Earlier in his career Gould steered the city of Chelsea, Mass., out of bankruptcy as a governor’s appointee.
His wife, former undersecretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy, has oft been mentioned as a possible deputy secretary or secretary of defense.
Catlin O’Neill, longtime aide to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is off to the private sector, joining Facebook’s growing lobbying shop in Washington. O’Neill, now chief of staff for Pelosi’s personal office, had been for six years the former speaker and now Democratic leader’s deputy director of legislative operations.
Facebook announced Tuesday that she joins Greg Maurer, a former aide to now-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Chris Herndon, a former House aide and most recently counsel on Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
With Emily Heil
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intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.
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