Good News for Fans of the Status Quo

By Al Kamen
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Obama, with his constant chatter about change and shaking things up and new ways of doing things, had rattled some traditionalists in this area -- especially those lacking a proper level of cynicism.

But a review of the early demographic data of Obama's first 56 selections for Senate-confirmed top jobs in the departments and agencies shows a marked tendency to choose old, white guys from the East Coast with credentials from elite universities.

In other words, not to worry. The Establishment remains firmly established. The Beltway is king.

In fact, half of Obama's first 56 senior-level picks are from the D.C. area and an additional 18 percent are from elsewhere on the East Coast. New York has four appointees, Massachusetts two, and there's one each from Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Virginia, according to a count by our colleague Sarah Cohen.

As would be expected, Illinois is well represented -- home to four appointees. Five come from California. No other state has more than two people in the mix. Overall, it appears more than half, 55 percent, are retreads from the Clinton administration.

Thirty-eight of the 56 appointees (68 percent) are men. (But white men, representing 46 percent of all picks, fall short of a majority.)

Nearly 70 percent of these appointees are white, 7 percent are of Asian or Pacific island descent, 16 percent are African American, and 7 percent are Latino.

Nearly 60 percent of the first batch of nominees -- 33 of them -- are affiliated with an elite school, having attended (either at the undergraduate or the graduate level) or taught at an Ivy League college or an institution such as MIT or Stanford. Harvard is on the résumé of a quarter (14) of Obama's picks.

There's good news for the older set. Sixty-six percent of those who have been picked are in their 50s and 60s, and 2 percent (also known as Leon Panetta) are in their 70s.

By way of comparison on a few of these statistics, 39 of Bill Clinton's first 48 nominees (81 percent) were white and seven (15 percent) were African American; 75 percent were men. Of George W. Bush's 28 first nominees, 22 were white (79 percent) and only 14 percent were women, according to data compiled by the Presidential Transition Project at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.

It should be noted that this snapshot is of the Cabinet and topmost officials in the new administration and may change significantly over time. For example, the average age could be expected to drop a bit as lower-level positions -- assistant secretaries and such -- get filled, probably with a younger cohort of appointees.

A Gray Eminence for HHS?

Another name being heard for the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama transition chief John D. Podesta, whose name has been out there as perhaps most ready to handle the difficult job, has told co-workers and friends that he's staying put at his think tank, the Center for American Progress. But he's been observing that perhaps Bill Novelli, the outgoing head of AARP, the seniors lobby, might be a possible candidate.

Zuckman to the Public Sector

Another top-tier reporter defects: Jill Zuckman, who has covered four presidential campaigns and appeared often on MSNBC's "Hardball" and Fox News, is leaving the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau to work for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as director of public affairs.

The Arizona Pipeline

The Obama administration seems to be departing from a Bush administration effort to overturn the tradition of giving Cabinet secretaries leeway to bring in a couple of trusted aides in order to have someone look out for their own interests, not just the president's.

Loop Fans may recall that the Bush folks, much focused on ideological coherence and centralized control, nixed an effort by one of that administration's commerce secretaries, Carlos Gutierrez, to bring his pal and vice president of government affairs for Kellogg, George Franklin, in to be his senior adviser.

The Bush White House, hearing protests from Michigan Republicans, nixed Franklin, apparently in part because he strongly supported John J.H. "Joe" Schwarz (R-Mich.) in his successful House candidacy. Schwarz was the Michigan head of Sen. John McCain's 2000 campaign against President Bush for the GOP nomination.

By way of major contrast, the Obama team apparently is happy with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's effort to seed her sprawling operation with several folks who worked for her when she was governor of Arizona -- Jan Lesher and Noah Kroloff, her chiefs of staff for operations and policy; Brian de Vallance, her senior counselor; and Dora Schriro, her special adviser on Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Former Arizona aide Suzie Barr is also at ICE, while Marco Lopez, former head of the state Department of Commerce, is at Customs and Border Protection.

The Arizona press has reported that Amy Schlossman, former gubernatorial policy adviser, and Chris Cummiskey, former director of the state Government Information Technology Agency, are also headed this way.

Last week, acting Transportation Security Administration chief Gale D. Rossides announced that Art Macias was coming in from Arizona to be TSA's chief of staff. TSA handles rail, bus and truck security but is of course best known for its oft-maligned airport security work.

Macias comes to the job after serving as Napolitano's director of the Arizona Lottery for the past three years. He had also been director of the state Department of Weights and Measures. In addition to his undergraduate degree, we learned, he "completed a French Master's scholars program in International Management from the Ecole Superieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (ESSEC) in Paris, France as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar."

With Philip Rucker

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