Obama Criticized for Lack of Diversity in Cabinet Appointments

Some Democratic supporters of Obama worry that the president's inner circle could become a boys' club.

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President Barack Obama speaks during a new conference in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, in Washington, to announce his nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, center, as the new Defense Secretary as Current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, stands left.
President Barack Obama announces his nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, center, as the new Defense Secretary on Jan. 7.

President Obama is causing a buzz in Washington because of a lack of diversity in his most recent major appointments.

Obama has named three white men to top posts for his second term: former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as secretary of Defense, national security specialist John Brennan as director of Central Intelligence, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as secretary of State.

[READ: Hagel Pick Shows Obama Ready for a Fight With GOP]

Hagel and Brennan would replace white men, but Kerry would succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the most influential and popular women ever to serve in government. And White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew appears to be in line to become Treasury secretary.

"It's evident that he's going to have a less diverse cabinet this term, possibly even less diverse than the George W. Bush cabinet," New York University political scientist Paul Light told The Washington Post. Some Democratic supporters of Obama privately express concern that Obama's inner circle could become something of a boys' club, a criticism that has been rising in the news media, such as The Washington Post and USA Today.

[PHOTOS: Obama Behind the Scenes]

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, another white male, told reporters, "The president does believe that diversity is very important, and he also believes that picking the absolute right person for each job is very important."

Carney pointed out that several women do serve in senior positions, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. He might have added that no one in government has more influence with the president than Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser and a longtime confidante of Obama from Chicago.

Just as important, Obama will have other appointments to make in the coming weeks, and some could be women.

[READ: Opinion | Three Women Who Belong in Obama's Cabinet]

A New York Times analysis finds that about 43 percent of Obama' overall appointees, not just cabinet officers, have been women, about the same proportion as in Bill Clinton's administration but an increase from about one third appointed by Bush. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/us/politics/under-obama-a-skew-toward-male-appointees.html

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.