Does Obama have a diversity problem?
The New York Times turned up the volume on questions about the president's second-term Cabinet diversity with its Wednesday front-page headline: "Obama's Remade Inner Circle Has an All-Male Look, So Far." The real story was the photo that illustrated the piece: The president meeting with his top advisers, and every one of them that we could see was a man, nine of 10 white.
It turns out, if you looked closely, that Valerie Jarrett was actually in the room, but hidden behind a colleague. Sure, that could be a metaphor, but it probably isn't: Jarrett is by all accounts one of the most influential people, if not the most influential, in the president's inner circle.
So by obscuring Jarrett, literally and figuratively, the Times piece and its dramatic presentation immediately overstated Obama's diversity problem – but that doesn't mean there isn't a problem. With the loss of Hillary Clinton, who's being replaced (the president hopes) by Sen. John Kerry, his appointee, there will be no women in the top tier of the Cabinet. Obama has also replaced Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and the top candidates for Lew's job are all male. When it comes to federal appointments overall, Obama's done a better job than George W. Bush but about the same as Bill Clinton.