After The New York Times ran the above photo alongside the headline, “Obama’s Remade Inner Circle Has an All-Male Look, So Far,” the media jumped on the narrative that President Obama is surrounding himself with white guys to the dismay of the diverse coalition who elected him to office.
While it’s certainly true his first four cabinet appointments have been white guys, it’s not actually true that there are no women or people of color in the White House in senior staff positions. Over at theGrio, I argue that not only do we need more diversity in the White House, but it’s time for the entire beltway apparatus, which looks like the photo below, to get on the diversity bandwagon instead of just “calling out” the Obama administration.
There is no doubt that the New York Times picture coupled with the announcement of four white men in row for cabinet posts is bad optics, but it might also be true that the same beltway media calling out the president for a surrounding himself with a majority of white men, lacks self-awareness to see that they too are a room full of white men.
The point being that the entirety of the beltway apparatus, from the White House down to the press corps who cover the administration, lack diversity.
There is also a tendency for the white men in the administration in these high profile posts to get more face time in the press, making them much more visible, and thus more closely associated with the president than other members of senior staff. It’s likely most Americans would be able to identify a picture of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner over a picture of Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.
This is not a defense of the administration. The key here is that progressives want a diverse group of folks in the White House to mirror the diversity of the president’s coalition. A more diverse group of advisors on key policy issues tends to result in better policy outcomes for women and people of color.
Diversity matters. For example, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett was a key voice inside the White House to make sure that President Obama held firm on the contraception mandate. Maybe if there was a woman in the leadership of the House the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have died a sad death? But the diversity of the people covering the beltway matters too. There is a reason the death of the VAWA wasn’t covered as much as the fiscal cliff or the debt ceiling negotiations.
Yes, there are too many white men in the White House, but there are too many white men everywhere you turn in politics. And maybe the beltway media should start by taking a hard look in the mirror.