Critics Point to Obama Cabinet Paradox: It’s Too White, Yet With Too Few Republicans

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WHAT IS THAT IN HIS HAND? Photo: Getty Images

Even as Barack Obama assembles what everyone agrees is seeming like a pragmatic Cabinet full of clearly qualified individuals, a backlash was inevitable. But the focus of the backlash — the Cabinet's diversity, in both race and ideology — may come as a surprise.

Is the first minority president really appointing too many whites? As we wrote yesterday, some Hispanic leaders aren't thrilled with their representation so far, but they're not alone. Jake Tapper notes that Obama has yet to appoint "any Asian-Americans, Native Americans, disabled Americans or openly gay or lesbian Americans to his Cabinet" and "there are groups paying attention." Sounds ominous. But Al Kamen says in the Washington Post that "Obama seems to be assembling his senior staff with an eye toward gender and ethnic diversity, filling almost half the positions with women and one-third with non-whites." And as A.J. Rossmiller points out in the New Republic, many of those women are in charge of our national security, "a major adjustment" for a field "long dominated by men." Now we get to test out that thing about women and wars!

And what about that bipartisan Cabinet Obama promised us? Congressional Quarterly claims that Obama's pledge is in danger, since Defense Secretary Robert Gates isn't really a Republican and none of the other open positions are likely to go to a (real) Republican either. Plus, JFK and Bill Clinton had Republican Defense secretaries, so that pick "isn’t actually breaking new ground." Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall thinks "this is about as nonsensical as it gets," figuring that, apparently, "Obama could only have come through on his promise of governing in a bipartisan spirit by staffing a cabinet with half Democrats and half Republicans." And anyway, National Security Adviser James Jones "appears also to be a Republican" (it's hard to tell with these military types). Political Animal's Steve Benen agrees, wondering if Obama needs "partisan Republican ideologues, who disagree with him, to fill at least a third of his cabinet" in order to avoid "tokenism." Sarah Palin for the EPA?