Dust-up in D.C. as Hillary Clinton prepares to step down, to be replaced by John Kerry, leaving a national security team composed of all white males that would make even Ronald Reagan happy
Things are shakin’ inside the Beltway and on many social media platforms as Democratic women are furious with the latest round of Obama cabinet appointments seemingly to be all white males.
Whatever happened to the old adage to “dance with the ones who brung you?” Indeed, a two-digit gender gap among the voters is what delivered Barack Obama a victory in his historic re-election bid, but the President and his vetters appear to have forgotten those women voters, many, if not most, happened to be Democratic voters.
The optics are pretty bad: in November just after the election, the White House allowed Ambassador Susan Rice to hang out in the wind, exposing her to a torrential downpour of Republican calculated attacks on her conduct and character for her appearance on the Sunday talk shows in defending the Administration’s explanation of the tragic events that took place in September in Benghazi, Libya. Rice used talking points prepared by the CIA, which Republicans charged was a word smithing cover-up and Rice should have known better than to use them (approved by at least three different agencies and the White House). Ultimately, those attacks effectively tanked her anticipated nomination to become the next Secretary of State.
President Obama defended her on two different occasions, but as one foreign policy reporter explained to me, the White House handling of the Rice situation was “tepid” at best.
As expected, Senator John Kerry was picked by Obama to replace international rock star Hillary Clinton, who by far is the strongest member of the Obama cabinet (there is no one on her playing field, save the President himself).
But the next round of appointments really tripped the furies’ trigger, when Obama chose to appoint former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for Secretary of Defense, bypassing rising Democratic star Michele Flournoy, who had served as the third-ranking official in the Department of Defense during Obama’s first term.
According to Rosa Brooks, a former advisor to Flournoy, Flournoy was the best person for the job, but the President not only passed her over, but gave up an opportunity to make history by naming Flournoy as the first woman to run the Pentagon.
Adding insult to injury, Obama announced that John Brennan, his counterorrism chief would take over the CIA. In reaction to the outrage, Rice and Flournoy’s names have been tossed around as possibilities to replace Tom Donilon as National Security Adviser sometime next year. We shall see.
The point here is “no girls allowed” as Brooks double-punched the issue again on the pages of Foreign Policy by laying out the case why the Obama Administration needs some desperate hormone therapy.
. @senatorshaheen on Obama’s top 4 cabinet picks all white men: “It’s disappointing.” “It’s important to have our voice at the table.”
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) January 10, 2013
Indeed, nothing could have brought the issue more to the fore, or into the public view than a damning White House photo that appeared in the New York Times on Wednesday, taken of the White House stimulas team who posed in the Oval Office: no women present, except the very hard to discern leg of Valerie Jarrett.
What is interesting to insiders is why Obama chose to fight for a Republican man who also happens to be very unpopular with mostly Neocon Republicans and many Democrats too (although some are backing away from their initial opposition, including Barney Frank who is unashamedly campaigning for the Senate placeholder seat in Massachusetts).
But do hold your nose dear Democrats, because whatever you may think about Hagel’s national security ideas, Hagel has a terrible, if not, abysmal voting record (just ended in 2008) on civil rights issues encompassing all the traditional Democratic constituencies: women, racial equity,immigration, Latinos, LGBT, labor and environment. And not just from 15 years ago.
But none of this surprises women who work in government and politics inside the Beltway. National Journal correspondent Fawn Johnson wrote a July 2012 cover story “High Hurdles” about the formidable challenges women face inside Washington to be competitive for the top-rung power positions. Johnson interviewed a job coach who works with women who are learning the angles in how to advance inside the Beltway:
Washington, D.C.—the government in any form—is the ultimate old boys’ network,” O’Leary told National Journal. Women “excel in the traditional education system,” she said. “We study hard. We get good grades. But that doesn’t translate into gender parity.
In a survey on women’s attitudes toward gender discrimination that accompanied Johnson’s trenchant expose of Washington’s sexist work environment, respondents overwhelmingly felt–73 percent–that men have more opportunities than women, in D.C.; that 60 percent felt that “its hard for women to attain positions of leadership”; that 65 percent felt physical appearance plays a more imporant role in career advancement for women than it does for men and 86 percent felt that it would be harder for a woman to be elected president than a man of similar qualifications.”
No doubt the most effective antidote to break out from a couple of hundred years of sex discrimination in American politics is to elect a woman president. And unsurprisingly, 65 percent of respondents felt that Hillary Rodham Clinton had done the most to advance the cause of women. Will she run in 2016? We shall see, but America needs a woman in the White House, because sometimes the best person for the job is a woman. We await her arrival with great anticipation.
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.