If there is one message President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has broadcast about Cabinet picks, it is that ethnicity and gender will not be the first considerations when filling the slots.
Credentials over tokenism, after all, was a fundamental principle of Obama’s presidential campaign that highlighted his ideas and community values over his African-American background. Still, if all goes as planned, Cabinet members with hefty résumés will present a picture of diversity.
Hispanic political leaders agree. Their expectations for seats at the president’s top policy table are not about meeting quotas but about advancing the reality that within this fastest-growing ethnic group are seasoned policy experts who understand the economic, foreign and domestic policy concerns shared by everyone.
Obama promised hope and change, and Hispanics hoped for the usual two Latinos in the Cabinet. And heck, why not three or four? Now that would be a change.
Gebe Martinez, Politico
But at this early stage in the appointments process, there is a trickle of disappointment running through the Latino community.
First, the most prominent Hispanic leader, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, lost the plum secretary of state assignment to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Last spring, Richardson angered the Clintonistas by backing Obama over Clinton during the heated Democratic Primary contest, only to now see her being offered the top diplomatic post.
“There’s nobody more prepared and experienced” for the job than Richardson, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Richardson was energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, and he helped free hostages in North Korea, Iraq and Cuba.
Second, grass-roots immigrant rights activists have mixed feelings about Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano being the likely nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security.
President-elect Barack Obama listens to Democratic governor Janet Napolitano (L) of Arziona during a economic discussion in June 2008 at the Chicago History Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Napolitano is a breast cancer survivor, mountaineer and Monty Python buff who has been on the front lines of the battle against illegal immigration.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Jeff Haynes)