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.