By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 8, 2006
President Bush's crop of political appointees includes fewer women and minorities than did President Bill Clinton's at comparable points in their presidencies, according to a new report by House Democrats.
Women made up about 37 percent of the 2,786 political appointees in the Bush administration in 2005, compared with about 47 percent in the Clinton administration in 1997, according to the report and supplemental data released last week by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee. Similarly, about 13 percent of Bush administration appointees last year were racial minorities, compared with 24 percent in the fifth year of Clinton's presidency, the report found.
The 13-page report, compiled using data from the Office of Personnel Management, says the number of women and minority appointees increased during the first five years after Clinton took office and has declined during Bush's tenure.
What the report does not mention, however, is that Bush has established a record of diversity in his Cabinet. Bush's Cabinet, which includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments, currently has two Hispanics, two African Americans and two Asian Americans. Three departments -- State, Education and Labor -- are headed by women, and a fourth, Interior, has an acting secretary who is a woman.
Before Bush took office, no minority had occupied any of the four highest-profile Cabinet positions -- attorney general and the secretaries of the Defense, State and Treasury departments. Now, Alberto R. Gonzales, a Hispanic, is attorney general. Condoleezza Rice is the first African American woman to be secretary of state; her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, was the first African American named to that post.
"The president nominates well-qualified, experienced and highly respected individuals from diverse backgrounds to serve throughout his administration," said Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman.
Healy also pointed out that several of Bush's top aides are women, including White House counsel Harriet Miers, homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend and communications director Nicolle D. Wallace.
The Democrats' report argues that the decline in the number of female and minority political appointees is significant because appointees are an area of government in which a president has the most power to leave his mark. Bush, like Clinton, has said he is proud of the diversity of his administration.
The decline occurred despite a 5 percent overall increase in political appointees since 1997.
Paul C. Light, a government professor at New York University, said the Bush administration has done well in putting women and minorities in top jobs, but has not when it comes to lower-ranking appointments.
"Talented women and minority candidates simply have better job opportunities on Capitol Hill and in lobbying and law firms," said Light, who has studied the appointment process. "You have to recruit hard to get women and minorities into these jobs, and it's not clear to me that the Bush administration has made their recruitment a priority."