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“Who Has A Seat At the Table?”: Walking His Talk, Obama Has Presided Over The Most Demographically Diverse Administration In History

Back in January 2013, Annie Lowrey wrote an article that surprised a lot of us titled: Obama’s Remade Inner Circle Has an All-Male Look, So Far.

…Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times.

Lowrey obviously wrote that when the administration was in the midst of transition, as many first-term appointees left their positions and the President was appointing their replacements. But it fed a meme that had been developed early on in the administration that the White House culture was dominated by men (at least until some folks decided to put a target on Valerie Jarrett’s back as the woman who was responsible for all of the President’s failings).

Recently, Juliet Eilperin revisited the whole issue of Obama’s appointments – not only of women, but a more broad perspective of diversity in the administration.

Obama has presided over the most demographically diverse administration in history, according to a new analysis of his top appointments. The majority of top policy appointments within the executive branch are held by women and minorities for the first time in history.

The transformation partly reflects a broader trend in U.S. society, but it also reflects the results of a calculated strategy by the nation’s first African American president. The shifts are significant enough, experts say, that they may have forever transformed the face of government…

O’Connell said that her research reveals that Obama has placed women and minorities in 53.5 percent of those posts. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, by contrast, installed women and minorities in 25.6 percent, while President Clinton’s number was 37.5 percent.

In order to chart that development over the last few presidents, the Washington Post provided some interesting graphs.

Due to the fact that the lead for this article was the announcement by the White House that President Obama will nominate Eric Fanning as the first openly-gay Secretary of the Army, Eilperin also notes the following:

And Fanning’s nomination punctuates the fact that members of the LGBT community have also made similar advances under Obama: There are now hundreds of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender appointees in the executive branch, compared with a handful in past administrations.

One omission in all this is the lack of any reporting on Native American appointments. I am not aware of any that the Obama administration has nominated to Cabinet positions, but the only Native American currently serving as a federal judge is Diane Humetewa, who was nominated by President Obama in September 2013 (the President previously nominated Arvo Mikkanen, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans).

When President Obama says that “everyone gets a seat at the table,” this is an example of him walking his talk.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 27, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Diversity, Executive Branch, Minorities, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ill Suited For The Historical Moment”: Was John Boehner A Victim Of Circumstance Or An Incompetent Bumbler?

You can’t fire me, John Boehner just told House Republicans, because I quit!

Amid yet more talk about a coup by ultra-conservative Republicans looking to replace him with one of their own — talk that has emerged seemingly every few months since he became Speaker of the House after the 2010 election — Boehner has finally decided to pack it in. And he’s not even waiting until his term runs out; instead, he’ll retire from Congress next month, presumably to become a spectacularly well-remunerated lobbyist.

Even Boehner’s most stalwart allies would have trouble arguing that his tenure was anything other than a failure. But the question is, how much of it was Boehner’s fault? Was he in an impossible situation from which no speaker could have wrung much success, or was he just terrible at his job?

The answer, I’d submit, is both. Boehner’s circumstances made success somewhere between unlikely and impossible. But along the way, he proved himself incapable of changing that situation in any way, seeming to make the worst of every crisis and showdown.

Let’s look at Boehner’s accomplishments in his nearly five years as speaker. Well, there’s…um…hmm. Can you think of any?

Conservatives might say that by joining with Mitch McConnell in a strategy of total and complete opposition to this administration, he helped stop Barack Obama from doing some things Obama might otherwise have done. Or I suppose one might argue that he limited the damage members of his own party could do to the country. Despite threatening to shut down the government more times than you can count, there was only one actual shutdown, in 2013. And we didn’t default on our debt by not raising the debt ceiling, which would have been catastrophic.

But that’s not much of a record of success. Boehner can’t say that he achieved any conservative ideological goals. But he did hold 50-odd votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is just about the opposite of a substantive achievement.

Granted, when your party doesn’t hold the White House, you aren’t going to be passing significant legislation to accomplish your own objectives. But you still might work with the other party to get some things done. That has happened in the past — legislative leaders have worked with a president of the other party to do big things like tax reform. But not anymore.

You also might mold your caucus into a unified force of strategic opposition, not just making the president’s life difficult but setting the stage for a successful wave of legislation the next time you do have control of both the legislative and executive branches. That’s what Nancy Pelosi succeeded in doing when George W. Bush was president, in advance of the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. But Boehner couldn’t do that either — his speakership was spent fighting with members of his own party, and each successive crisis only made them look less and less serious.

From the beginning, Boehner may have been ill-suited to the historical moment. He was an old-school pol, the kind who favored hashing out deals over cigars and whiskey, but he was elevated to the speakership in a revolution fueled by anger, resentment, and distrust of party leaders. He spent his time as speaker trying constantly to mollify a group of unreasonable members for whom any compromise was betrayal, and the idea of strategically avoiding a confrontation today to put yourself in a better position tomorrow was just too sophisticated for them to wrap their heads around. They’re a group of bomb-throwers and lectern-pounders, who (like their mentor Ted Cruz) think that “standing up to Obama” is a substantive accomplishment in and of itself to be proud of.

That’s not to mention the fact that the rightward drift of the Republican Party, particularly in Boehner’s House, has made strategic action in the party’s long-term interest virtually impossible. The best example is immigration, where everyone including Boehner acknowledged that the party needed to pass comprehensive reform in order to prove to Hispanic voters that the GOP was not hostile to them. But it couldn’t happen because so many in Boehner’s caucus are ultra-conservative members who hail from conservative districts where they need only fear a challenge from the right. So they don’t want comprehensive reform, and neither do their constituents.

Could a more skilled speaker have found a way out of that conundrum? It’s hard to see how, other than the obvious way: by passing reform using a combination of votes from Democrats and sane Republicans. This was the option Boehner faced again and again on funding the government, and he only took it when things reached the point of crisis. Every time, observers wondered if it would lead to a revolt that would displace him as speaker, but his saving grace turned out to be that the job was so miserable that nobody else wanted it.

It’s still unclear how Boehner’s announcement will affect the current shutdown crisis we’re approaching, but since he no longer has to worry about his job, he may just bring it to a quick conclusion by throwing the conservatives some meaningless bone of a symbolic vote on Planned Parenthood, then putting a clean continuing resolution up to a vote (that seems to be the direction they’re moving). The CR would probably pass with Democratic support, and then doomsday could be avoided for a while, with Boehner’s replacement left to enact the next iteration of this absurd ritual once the CR runs out.

It would, in its way, be a fitting end to the Boehner speakership: a needless crisis driven by ultra-conservative members Boehner can’t control, finally resolved — but only temporarily — in a way that leads those members to call him a traitor and sets the stage for yet another crisis before long.

Can anyone blame him for wanting to get the hell out?


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 25, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“White Supremacists Are Glad Boehner’s Leaving”: Didn’t Focus Enough On “The Replacement Of Whites By Non-Whites”

White supremacist leaders took to social media to celebrate the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner on Friday morning,  a “cuckservative” whose tenure didn’t focus enough on “the replacement of whites by non-whites through immigration and higher birthrates.”

And one prominent white supremacist consider it a big loss for a Republican establishment they believe is “outmoded”—and an even bigger win for the appeal of “instinctive, unconscious (for) white Americans” they say Donald Trump provides.

“Whites are objectively more useful to the country than blacks or Hispanics in terms of crime rates, welfare dependency, labor-force productivity, etc.  This is obviously true but everyone is too terrified to say so,” Jared Taylor, the President of the New Century Foundation, told The Daily Beast.

“Mr. Boehner never talked about these things, but he should have. “

The New Century Foundation is a self-described “white separatist” organization, which publishes a journal a “race realism” journal called American Renaissance. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “most would describe (Taylor) as crudely white supremacist.”

Taylor believes the “replacement of whites by non-whites” is “the greatest long-term threat to conservatives.”

“Non-whites are like hens’ teeth in the Republican Party, but Republicans are too stupid to realize that an increasingly non-white America will be increasingly hostile to everything they claim to care about,” he said.

“The irony is that nothing conservatives profess to love will survive without whites.”

Many white supremacists pointed to what they perceived to be Boehner’s “weakness” on immigration, and his unwillingness to join those in his party that are insistent on building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

They believe the Speaker’s border policy makes him a textbook “cuckservative,” which, as The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis defined the term, is a “newfangled slur that combines the word ‘cuckold’ (which has both sexual and racial overtones) with the word ‘conservative.’”

“Boehner is generally weak on the immigration question. Thus, he’s lost his base of power,” said Richard B. Spencer, the head of the National Policy Institute, a white separatist think tank. In the past, Spencer has argued for a “new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.“

“White Americans recognize (in an instinctive, unarticulated way) that taxes and budgets are meaningless in the face of White dispossession. It’s only issues of immigration and demographics that really matter,” he told The Daily Beast.

That’s why, Spencer believes, Donald Trump is gaining in the polls among those who share his beliefs.

“Today, the Republican Party is haunted by the specter of White dispossession and ethno-politics,” he said. “This is what the Trump phenomenon is really about, and this is why Trump is loathed by establishment conservatives (FOX, the GOP, the ‘conservative movement’) and why he appeals—on an instinctive, unconscious level—to White Americans.”

Jason Jones, who runs the Twitter account “End Cultural Marxism,” also intimated that Boehner wasn’t conservative enough for him and his 17,000-plus followers on social media.

“Boehner is a pro-immigration cuckservative. (I’m) glad he’s resigning. Both legal and illegal immigration are driving down American wages. It’s the No. 1 issue of our age,” said Jones.

When asked if he agreed with a fellow white supremacist, who wrote that Boehner “served his own special anti-White purpose,” he replied “yes.” Jones had retweeted the quote.

“European-descended people (whites) have interests too. Boehner did not represent our interests,” said Jones.

By midday, however, white supremacists like Taylor and Spencer had already resigned themselves to a new House Speaker who likely won’t speak for their values.

“Diversity is a source of conflict, not a strength. The idea that diversity is a strength is so obviously stupid that only very smart people can convince themselves of it,” said Taylor. “His replacement should talk about (these issues), but we can be certain that he will not.”

Spencer is equally disillusioned with those rumored to be the next Speaker—like Reps. Kevin McCarthy or Paul Ryan. But he says he sees a bright future for sect of white separatists like him that he believes to be burgeoning within the GOP.

“I’m not particularly impressed with the putatively more ‘conservative’ Republicans who are in position to take Boehner’s place. Indeed, they seem just as much products of the past as the current Speaker,” said Spencer. “In the end, politics is a lagging indicator of social change. And the Right of the future is just now taking shape.”


By: Ben Carson, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Immigrants, John Boehner, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama Facing The World As It Really Is”: A Smiling Pope, A Fallen Speaker And Two Tough Guys — Obama’s Crazy Week

The week began with President Obama on the tarmac of a military base in Maryland, waiting to welcome a global celebrity far more popular than he. It ended with him raising a toast to a hard-nosed world leader who has repeatedly challenged American interests and Obama’s resolve.

Along the way, the president’s most frequent legislative sparring partner in Washington relinquished his post on Capitol Hill, finally surrendering to the sharp polarization that has come to define American politics in the past five years. And abroad, another of Obama’s persistent antagonists — the Russian president — suddenly wanted a face-to-face chat about Syria and Ukraine.

The week’s events seemed like political surrealism. When Pope Francis arrived at the White House on Wednesday, the weather was so gorgeous it put Obama in a hopeful, reverential mood.

“What a beautiful day the Lord has made,” he said.

Two days later, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on the South Lawn to a much stiffer, more martial ceremony, complete with a 21-gun salute and lengthy remarks read from thick binders. Behind the scenes, the two leaders grappled over questions of economic hacking and Beijing’s military adventurism in the South China Sea.

But amid the piety of the pope and the provocations by China loomed the potential of another government shutdown. The surprise announcement by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday that he would step down provided the week’s surpassing piece of political drama.

In Obama, Boehner has faced a determined adversary, but it was a mutiny within his own caucus that finally drove him to the exit. And as tempestuous as the Obama-Boehner relationship has been, the speaker’s departure signals that Obama may face an even more fractious GOP majority Congress in the remaining months of his presidency.

More than some of his predecessors, Obama is acutely aware of the contrast between his lofty ideals and the reality facing him. He talks about it all the time.

“Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty,” the president told graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May 2014. “But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters ; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.”

The past week was a single lens into both those worlds, with their maddeningly uplifting complexity.

In Francis — and his progressive message on inequality, immigration and climate change — Obama saw the world as he wanted it to be. In everything else — Xi’s visit, Boehner’s resignation and a decision to meet with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session in New York — the president faced the world as it really is.

The president has had only a modest impact on three of the protagonists who dominated the week, although he has sought to engage all of them at different points. Xi and Obama have found a common cause in tackling climate change, but on many other important policy issues, they are at odds. Putin, like Xi, has joined the United States in pressuring Iran to scale back its nuclear program. But he defied American calls to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and has ignored the U.S. push to sideline Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of a political solution to the ongoing Syrian civil war. Obama sought to enlist Boehner’s help in forging fiscal and immigration reforms, but the GOP leader was never able to bring along enough members of his party to make the deals happen.

Still, Obama was at the center of all of the action over the past week.

Stanford University’s Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia for three years under Obama, returned a few days ago from Beijing. He said he was struck by the massive coverage in China of Xi’s visit to the United States, as he was by Putin’s desire to speak with Obama during the U.N. meeting. China’s and Russia’s dealings with the United States rank as each of those countries’ “most important bilateral relationship,” he said.

“It seems to me [Obama is] still pretty engaged in international affairs, and people want to engage him,” said McFaul, who directs Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “We’re still the central power in the international arena.”

During a news conference with Xi in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Obama delivered a brief lecture on the many responsibilities that accompany China’s rise from the “poor, developing country” it once was to its current status.

“It is now a powerhouse. And that means it’s got responsibilities and expectations in terms of helping to uphold international rules that might not have existed before,” the president said.

But on several issues, Xi asserted that China would not mimic other world powers. “Democracy and human rights are the common pursuit of mankind,” he said. “At the same time, we must recognize that countries have different historical processes and realities, and we need to respect people of all countries in the right to choose their own development path independently.”

Although the White House has emphasized the value of the time Obama and Xi have spent “outside the glare of the klieg lights,” in the words of press secretary Josh Earnest, experts cautioned that that sort of schmoozing has its limits.

Patrick M. Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said there’s an “American tendency to believe in the personalization of relations.”

“It’s all generally true, but the president of China doesn’t come as a person,” he said. “He comes here as the leader of the Communist Party, and the leader of China.”

Obama’s exchanges with the pope were less charged.

Obama and Francis chatted amiably as the choir of Washington’s St. Augustine Catholic Church sang “Total Praise” on the South Lawn, and in their public remarks, the president and the pontiff emphasized their common values.

The pope said he found it “encouraging” that Obama was cutting carbon emissions linked to climate change. Meanwhile, the president not only praised Francis’s vision of “empathy,” but also said his “unique qualities as a person” gave the world “a living example of Jesus’s teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.”

On Friday, after word of Boehner’s resignation became public, Obama said he hoped lawmakers would “really reflect on what His Holiness said,” especially the idea “that we listen to each other and show each other respect, and that we show regard for the most vulnerable in society.”

Seven decades ago, with Eastern Europe in turmoil, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dismissed the Vatican’s influence in the world with this question: “How many [military] divisions does the pope of Rome have?”

Michael Ignatieff, a professor at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, described Obama as “a realist and a pragmatist” with reasons to align himself with Francis.

“A ‘realist’ fact about the modern world is Pope Francis has divisions,” said Ignatieff, who led Canada’s Liberal Party in opposition between 2008 and 2011. “He has articulated a longing for justice, the care of nature, the care of the poor — that’s very powerful stuff.”


By: Juliet Eilperin, White House Bureau Chief, The Washington Post, September 26, 2015


September 28, 2015 Posted by | John Boehner, Pope Francis, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Almost Giddy”: Religious Conservatives Celebrate John Boehner’s Downfall—And Pray Mitch McConnell Is Next

This morning, when Senator Marco Rubio interrupted his address to the Values Voter Summit in Washington to break the news that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning, the crowd of conservative Christian activists immediately rose to their feet, breaking into cheers and shouts of “Amen!”

“The time has come to turn the page,” Rubio declared to raucous applause. After the speech, the overjoyed activists described Boehner as the emblem of all that’s wrong with Washington today: too weak, too moderate, and unwilling to listen to the conservative base. “Mr. Boehner has no backbone when it comes to standing up for principles that Christians believe in,” said Ron Goss, an activist from Locust Dale, Virginia.

“It’s absolutely best news I’ve heard in months,” said Judith Neal, a Christian activist from San Dimas, California.

“I am delighted because he’s been there too long,” said Gary Frazier, a Christian organizer from Colleyville, Texas. Like the other conservatives assembled from around the country for the weekend summit, Frazier has said that conservatives expected big things after the 2014 midterms and Republicans took full control of Congress. Instead, he continued, “it’s been a year and a half of nothing.” Nobody on the religious right has been fooled by the current Republican threat to shut down the govenment over Planned Parenthood funding, he said, calling it “nothing but political posturing.”

The moment they heard about Boehner, the mood among the activists—so long frustrated by electing Republicans who didn’t carry out their agenda effectively—became almost giddy. “I’m just a little overwhelmed,” Neal said, holding her hand to her heart. “He’s held back Congress from doing all the right things.” But he’s not the only one, she said. Like many activists, Neal immediately began hoping that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be next, adding that she was now feeling more hopeful that the Republican establishment was finally—finally!—starting to listen.

There was no consensus among activists as to who the next speaker should be, but they expressed confidence that it would be someone from the GOP’s right flank who’d be more friendly to their social agenda than Boehner. Shak Hill, a Ted Cruz supporter and Virginia-based activist, said that the new speaker should force President Obama to veto more bills. “We’re not putting forward enough issues to show [Obama’s] true colors,”  Hill said. Tammi Wilson, 51, a conservative activist from North Carolina, agreed: She’d specifically like to see the next Speaker bring up bills that challenge funding on a line-by-line basis, as opposed to the omnibus spending bills that have kept the government open. Republicans like Boehner, she said, haven’t done so because “they’re afraid of Obama.”

The right flank of the GOP has been calling for Boehner to resign for years, but the shadow of the 2016 elections seems to have done him in. In the short term, Boehner’s resignation could conceivably help Republican candidates convince disillusioned and frustrated GOP voters that change is possible after all, that there’s renewed hope of their agenda advancing. But those hopes could also backfire on the Republican establishment, precisely because of the renewed optimism that evangelicals were reveling in this morning: Cynicism and frustration with Washington have hurt the candidates who already hold office. But what happens when the frustrations set in again, and activists want the insurgents to flex their muscles and topple the establishment again?

Senator Ted Cruz, who’s counting on the religious right to be a cornerstone of his campaign, wasn’t worrying about that for now: Taking the stage shortly after his presidential rival, Rubio, broke the news about Boehner, Cruz used the speaker’s resignation as a rallying cry. “You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?” Cruz asked, clearly feeling the buzz of unexpected optimism in the crowd. “Yesterday, John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and all of a sudden that changes. My only request is that you come more often.”


By: Suzy Khimm, Senior Editor, The New Republic; September 25, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Evangelicals, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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