Obama, Bush or Clinton: Who Put More Blacks at the Top?

Obama, Bush or Clinton: Who Put More Blacks at the Top?


There is an ongoing discussion regarding Black hiring in the Obama Administration and this 2012 campaign begs the question: How does President Obama rank when compared to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush with regard to the number of Blacks hired for top jobs in his Administration?

The current tally:

  • Obama 4 (in 3 years, 4 months)
  • Clinton 9 (in 8 years)
  • Bush 6 (in 8 years)


To be in the President’s cabinet means having the power to oversee billion dollar budgets and thousands of jobs.  Near the end of his first term, President Obama currently has one African American in a top level cabinet position: Attorney General Eric Holder.  Holder oversees a budget of $27 billion and over 111,000 employees after the President appointed the first Black Attorney General in history.

Though the United Nations Ambassador, U.S. Trade Representative and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator are not technically members of the President’s 15 person cabinet, all three are top high ranking positions frequently referred to as “cabinet level.” The difference between cabinet and non-cabinet or “cabinet-level” is considerable in terms of budgets and staff.  President Obama has hired three African Americans to these positions.  Lisa Jackson is the EPA Administrator, Ron Kirk is the U.S. Trade Representative and Susan Rice is the UN Ambassador. In total, President Obama has hired four African Americans to top positions in less than 4 years.

When President Clinton took office in 1993, he appointed five African Americans to his cabinet.  He appointed: Mike Espy as Secretary of Agriculture; Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce; Hazel O’Leary as Secretary of Energy; Jesse Brown as Secretary of Veteran Affairs; and Lee Brown as his Drug Czar.  Though the office of the Drug Czar was a cabinet level position in 1993 it is no longer.

The five Clinton appointments in 1993 represented a first in U.S. history and the largest number of Blacks in high ranking positions ever up to that time.  Never before had an African American held any of the four positions previously at Commerce, Agriculture, Energy and Veterans Affairs.

Over eight years, Clinton would appoint four more African Americans to his cabinet. He appointed: Alexis Herman as Secretary of Labor; Rod Slater as his Secretary of Transportation; and Togo West as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  Clinton also appointed Franklin Raines as his director of Office of Management and Budget. Clinton also appointed Eric Holder as Deputy Attorney General. In total, President Clinton appointed 9 African Americans to the top positions in his Administration before leaving office.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, he appointed three African Americans to his Cabinet.  He nominated the first African American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the first African American National Security Adviser, Condi Rice.  Eric Holder was acting Attorney General for only a few months – but Bush never intended to appoint Holder to Attorney General and instead nominated former Senator John Ashcroft.  Bush also appointed Rod Paige as his Education Secretary and Alphonso Jackson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs.  Over eight years, President Bush appointed six Blacks to top positions in his cabinet over eight years.

Bush would later appoint Condi Rice as Secretary of State and do something only one other President (Bill Clinton) had done: Appoint two African Americans in a row to a cabinet position. President Clinton appointed Jesse Brown and then Togo West as his Secretaries of Veteran Affairs.  Should President Obama win a second term there is likely to be turnover in his cabinet next year and many more appointments thereafter.

LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus.  She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.


  1. No, you're confusing grammar with logic. "Begs the question" was used entirely correctly in the context of this piece; the history of the phrase as a description of logical fallacy is a separate issue from the proper and appropriate use of those three English words in a sentence.

    • I'm sorry, but the first person had it correct. "Raises the question" is what the author should have written. "Begs the question" refers to the logical fallacy, as you rightly mentioned, but its meaning is distinctly its own. To say that it is grammatically correct is to allow the degradation of language. Words have meaning. Writers should be the most protective of that.

  2. Why does this matter? Who freaking cares what ethnicity someone is so long as they can do the job they are hired to do! If a black man, an asian woman, a mexican chick, and a white dude (ad naseum) can do the job, then make the competition for the position much tougher and pick the PERSON (i.e. human being) that will do the BEST job. That is all that matters.

    Hiring a person b/c of their skin color is a) racist against other people & b) has a chance of putting someone stupid and unreliable in the position. Base a person off of their talents, their intellect, and their experience; not their ethnicity.

    • It matters to Ms. Burke because since President Obama beat Congressional Black Caucus favorite, Hillary Clinton, and won the presidency, Ms. Burke has been on a mission to prove that President Obama isn't "black enough" or that he doesn't care about Black people. The problem is is that Ms. Burke's myths, lies and fairy tales have been easily debunked on more than one occasion.

      • He's not Black enough. When was the last time he mentioned Black unemployment, the Black incarceration rate or the Black male dropout rate or Black on Black crime? Tell us Sepia when the last time that was. And stupid fuckers like you Sepia sit there and think everything is fine. Please everyone read Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report. This article is nothing.

      • Grootch: You better go easy on all that anti isaerl shit unless you want to lose the jewish sector from your progressive alliance. where do you think all the money your movie star leaders of the free world comes from. the jewish influence behind the scenes in the media and entertainment industry is immense. so unless you want to start writing real big fucking checks to help pimp the agenda, go easy there big boy. isaerl is more a democrat issue than a conservative issue.most of those UN resolutions you cite were for retaliatory attacks and actions, I have no issue with that eye for an eye stuff, i do it myself..far more old testament by nature than an enlightened man.you don’t get it about the basis for a civilization..name one that lasted without the ability and willingness to defend itself and its interests. the ass fucked french don’t count, as that would be comparable to comparing a street walker to a virgin. the US needs to get after these guys because guys like you don’t get it. these guys aren’t gonna quit, and it will be very difficult to do business in a dangerous and paranoid free world, unless you feel koran and prayer rug sales a viable busuness opportunity. good to see you and nowhere are on the same page on this one.

    • , i’d love to see that old testament money spaerd out a bit, but it ain’t happening.you should see how the line up on the liberal side here in chicago, and i’ll bet we got a hell of a lot more here with money than there..what do you got there in the RRV 6 or 7 jewish residents?my fathers attorney was out of grand forks back in the day and really had very few fellow jews to worship with, it was a common complaint, since he was also a magistrate, he decided to stay.every major developer except for Trump here is of the jewish faith, and routinely support democrats.i really don’t know how you have any deniabiity on this one dude..a rare face plant by the fabulous rotarian.Grootch, I expect much better from you.This isn’t a subject to stake your flag on, especially with your stand.The progressive alliance has to split rom the liberal base if they want to defile israel. It will split the money and support. More important than their votes are their money. They routinely help balance the playing field between the conservative/business and the liberals.

    • Right notice that Reid had to use UNDER SECRETARIES to PACK THE NUMBERS for the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. Why won't they just release the stats on who they have hired??? Why didn't Reid simply use the Cabinet secretary numbers. I wonder WHY?

    • Yes Black people don't dare ask this President for anything after you've given someone 97% of your vote. Shut your mouth like Sepia and enjoy the grinning and the celebrity bull while Black Americans remain at the bottom of every category. Don't dare ask that he hire anyone who looks like you to a top position. Just enjoy his grin and the cute kids and shut up. Meanwhile when gays, jews and hispanics and everyone else DEMAND THINGS AND THEY GET IT — you can look back at Obama's years in office later and realize how stupid you were to ask for absolutely nothing.

      • You're whining about President Obama not hiring "anyone who looks like you to a top position" but Joy-Ann Reid's article shows that POTUS has hired Black people to top positions.

        Or maybe it's that YOU weren't hired? Hmm…

        • Reid is a fake journalist who use to work for Barack Obama's campaign and is now on MSNBC to promote her former boss. Is that objective reporting. Just like you she thinks this mother walks on damn water. No President walks on water. LIKE I SAID —->>>> Please everyone read Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report. This article is nothing. READ IT NOW —–> http://blackagendareport.com/

  3. I hope no one is actually paying to have this lady write columns for their websites. If so, such a waiste of money for opioniated useless stats like this. I thought the whole point of equal opportunity was not to base whether or not you will hire someone off the color of their skin or ethnicity.

  4. i think obama should be re elected again not cause of color but he care about people of americamore than anyone he doing a good job better than busg lease he doesnt steal money an i like how he go after rich people to make them pay their fare share of tax live everyone else

    • just think of how many years of Kennedys we’d have if they didn’t cull the herd and if Fat Bastard didn’t kill the young Mary Jo in mid blow job and then run like a twit shit we’d still be ruled by them talk about divine inietvenrton .With Bush the Elder (bonafide hero and spook) and his son (actually son of the milk man who disappeared strangely in 1983) and the Arkansas modern day answer to a political Bonnie Clyde (the body count grows )apparently the American public has a thing for its own royal families..

  5. Wrong metric folks.

    The question should be, "How many qualified people these presidents put into positions of power?".

    The follow up question is," Given the costs incurred, rank the presidents on the value they provided versus the money they (spent, consumed, printed, borrowed)."

    So far, none of the three left office with the country more optimistic than when they entered. In fact, the optimism of the later two is that they will not come back.

    • Right.
      Like George Bush was "qualified" to go to Yale. He got in because of dad.
      Like Robert Kennedy was "qualified" to be AG.
      Like Clarence Thomas was qualified?
      Stop acting like factors such as qualifications are always considered. They are not.

    • Yes, it is fair, we can do math. Obama is behind Clinton because Obama appointed four his first term… Clinton appointed five his first term. Bush appointed six in two terms. Was it a race to see who could appoint the most blacks first? Does the number Bush appointed equal racism if it is less than what Clinton and Obama did? This is a pointless comparison. How about how many blacks were enrolled in universities for each President, the unemployment figures and the number in jail.

    • Elliott thats all the data that is currently available as Obama has only served nearly 4 years…I’m sure the numbers will be updated over time… Why do minorities automatically jump to conclusion they are being treated unfairly or turn everything into a race issue???

  6. The point here has nothing to do with race. It has to do with how those blacks that moves to the top echelon of society view other blacks. This is specifically attributable to Black man. Obama’s strategy of appointing fewer black people, especially black men is indicative of what you see in Corporate America. In most cases, black men in United States who get to top positions in American society, has a hard time appointing other qualified black men into visible positions. When you ask them why, the answer you get is that they do not want to be seen as patronizing other people, specifically black men regardless of qualification. Obama is following the script. Though, I voted for Obama, but I bet you John McCain and Mitt Romney would have appointed more blacks to high positions of authority than Obama. Race should not be the key indices of appointment, but in this case and in other cases I experienced in corporate America, race is the case with most black men in corporate America. If you are a black man trying to climb the corporate ladder, your probability of being promoted or appointed is better with a white man than with black men or other minority groups. President Obama need to realize that it may take another 50 to 100 years before another man of black extraction become President of United States. Based Obama’s appointments, it appears he is comfortable with black men in his cabinet. Let us be honest, Obama has only one Black man in his cabinet and he is Eric Holder. The other appointments are not cabinet secretaries. I hope he takes a clue from this article and make amend.

  7. […] known fact – President George W. Bush appointed Eric Holder as acting Attorney General in 2001. Obama, Bush or Clinton: Who Put More Blacks at the Top? | Politic365 President Bush appointed five black cabinet members – Collin Powell and Condalezza Rice(Secretary […]

  8. One needs to look at this with complete 360 line of sight and not just top appointments. This should filter down to all department heads, czars, and other advisors, special favors and kickbacks. For example, “giving” a “NO BID” $678 million contract for the Obamacare Healthcare.gov system development to CGI Federal – whose Senior VP, Toni Townes-Whitley, was a Princeton classmate (class of ’85) of Michelle’s. She and her husband were also major donors to the Obama campaign. Chicago style politics.

  9. Blacks only make up 15% (tops) of the U.S. population so b all accounts, all of the Presidents have appointed more than the fair share per capita. And most of them are very qualified but seem like “yes” men/women, probably feeling honored they got the job. That’s why Obama is such a “closed” shop and listens to his inner circle.

  10. […] There is an ongoing discussion regarding Black hiring in the Obama Administration and this 2012 campaign begs the question: How does President Obama rank when compared to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush with regard to the number of Blacks hired for top jobs in his Administration? The current tally: Obama 4 (in 3 years, 4 months) Clinton 9 (in 8 years) Bush 6 (in 8 years) Obama, Bush or Clinton: Who Put More Blacks at the Top? | Politic365 […]

  11. President Bush nominated Condi Rice National Security Adviser and Colin Powell as the first African American Secretary of State.

    I believe these were higher appointments than Clinton made.

  12. I don’t see what this has to do with anything. African Americans are what? 12-14% of our population? Barack Obama’s cabinet was over 50% minorities. This did not represent the population of American at all. Besides, if we would just stick to viewing each other as human beings rather than black, white, brown, etc. maybe we could someday live in a world without racism. C’mon, besides cultural differences (which all people have) the only difference in people is pigment. I don’t care what pigment color or sex the cabinet is as long as the resume shows long experience in the field. The reason why we are in such a chaotic state at this point is because as our President Obama didn’t have sufficient management experience to be President, most of his staff did not either. We are paying the price for his inexperience.