Wednesday, November 19, 2008



Um, I thought Barack Obama defeated the Clintons in the Democratic primary. So, why do so many of all the early appointments -- and trial balloons -- seem a bit too much like the Clinton Restoration that was supposedly stopped last summer?

Hot on the heels of the "SOS Hillary" boomlet, we now have the announcement that deputy AG under Clinton, Eric Holder, is Obama's pick.

Yes, Holder is certainly "qualified" to be US attorney general. That may not be saying much, given that that office has been held by everyone from John Mitchell to Janet Reno to Alberto Gonzalez. But, is it really the case that Obama couldn't find another candidate who's selection didn't immediately conjure up memories of Clinton's departing scandal -- Marc Rich and Pardongate?

Well, there are any number of people that could do that job. However, I would argue that Obama may be falling into a similar bind that tripped up Bill Clinton early on. It's the Diversity Trap: Clinton made a big deal about wanting to appoint the first female attorney general. Remember how that turned out? Both Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood stumbled because of "nanny" problems. That left Reno as the third choice.

Within days of Obama's election, I was on a radio show discussing possible members of the cabinet. The African American host was troubled by the idea that few minorities (or women) were being mentioned for top jobs. At this point, only Rahm Emanuel had been named incoming chief of staff. Some names being floated at the time were John Kerry at State, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker and T
im Geithner at Treasury. Indeed, the host asked me, half-jokingly, why wasn't Time Warner's Dick Parsons mentioned for Treasury. Robert Kennedy Jr.'s name was being floated for Environmental Protection Agency.

The point, said the host, we have the first black president, but why don't some of these names being leaked represent "diversity"? I said that it was a bit too early to be concerned about the diversity issue. However, the topic came up again last week on "This Week With George Stephanopolous." Sam Donaldson, of all people, brought up the idea that the names mentioned for the big jobs -- Defense, State and Treasury were all white, for one, and, with the exception of Hillary -- male. Cokie Roberts added, "Well, Obama can't be seen to have an administration that is less diverse than George W. Bush's."

So, that brings us to Eric Holder and Attorney General. In the hierarchy of Cabinet posts, AG is up there with the previously cited three. Obama manages to make a "first ever" pick for that spot (matching Clinton's selection of Reno and Bush's of Gonzales). But the price for trying to balance his diversity concerns is not necessarily one of quality -- coming in, Holder is likely more qualified than either Reno or Gonzales). No, the price is sacrificing the mantle of "change" that had been synonymous with Obama.

Based on actual selections plus the rumor-mill, the Obama adminstration will have Holder as AG, Clinton vet Emanuel as WH chief of staff, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state -- and Bush-holdover Robert Gates (filling the GOP quota). Apparently "change" is something that the country can only "hope" for in the days ahead.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook