Race and Gender in the Trump Cabinet

Many of us are paying a lot of attention to important things about the Trump nominees:  Do they believe in Climate Change?  Support torture?  Want to cozy up to Putin?  Create a Muslim Registry?  Know anything about the job they to which they are being appointed?  Important things.  That is why this analysis is so interesting.  It was the headline that caught my eye “Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan.”  Written by Jasmine C. Lee the New York Times story is full of charts and pictures.

If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named nominees for two additional positions.

Those five members will also be in some of the lowest-ranking positions. None of them are in the so-called inner cabinet, the four positions in place since George Washington’s presidency: the attorney general and the secretaries of state, Treasury and defense (formerly called the secretary of war).

Barack Obama had 14. Bill Clinton 12, and George W. Bush 9.  Trump is doing a little better than Reagan who only had two:  Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations and Samuel Pierce at HUD.

C487-2

The cabinet of President Ronald Reagan in February 1981.

The first cabinets of George W. Bush and Mr. Obama were both noted for their diversity. In Mr. Bush’s initial administration, 45 percent of the cabinet and cabinet-level officials were women or nonwhite men. In Mr. Obama’s first cabinet, that figure was 64 percent.

What does it mean that the clock is being turned back on diversity?  I think that diversity and inclusion are bad words to the President-elect.  They certainly are to his supporters.  But I think a great deal is lost when there aren’t persons from different backgrounds, genders, and races at the table.  If everyone is a super-rich white man, who represents the rest of us?  And who represents the Trump voter?

Official White House photo of Obama Cabinet

The cabinet of President Obama in September 2009.

Photograph of Reagan Cabinet from the Reagan Library

Photograph of the Obama Cabinet from the White House

Guns and public health

There are too many guns in the United States.

Last October Christopher Ingraham wrote in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog

It’s tough to know exactly how many guns we have in the United States. Most estimates of the number of guns in the U.S. use federal tallies of the firearms manufactured, imported and exported by U.S. gunmakers. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report published exactly one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of civilian firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009.

If that 310 million number is correct, it means that the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was an inflection point: It marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.

It is clear that the Obama years have been a boon to gun manufacturers regardless of whether the number of guns is 245 million, 270 million, or 300 million.

guns

Do they keep us safe?  Some gun owners point to falling homicide rates, but there are studies showing that places with few guns have lower rates.  Ingraham writes

It’s important to note that even as the number of guns has increased since the early-to-mid-90s, the per-capita gun homicide rate has fallen by nearly half over the same time period. On the other hand, it’s also true that when you make comparisons between states and countries, you see that places with more guns have more gun homicides, as research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows.

These two seemingly unreconcilable facts form the factual basis for much of the contemporary gun policy debate. Defenders of gun rights can point to falling homicide rates and rising gun numbers and argue that the solution to gun violence is more guns. Gun control advocates, meanwhile, can point out the correlations between gun ownership and gun crime and push for tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

Ingraham concludes

Is there a way to reconcile these divisions? It’s hard to tell. I keep coming back to this quote, from the Economist earlier this year in response to the Charleston massacre.

Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing.

Which brings me to Margaret Talbot’s comment in the January 18 issues of The New Yorker.  Talbot writes about President Obama’s Executive Order on background checks.

Last week at the White House, as President Obama announced a set of executive actions aimed at blunting gun violence, he seemed anything but numb. He wept as he invoked the first graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut—a response for which some gun advocates mocked him. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s words about the “fierce urgency of now.” But he also acknowledged the numbness that can overcome people in the face of one mass shooting after another. That numbness puts proponents of unfettered gun rights at an advantage. People can easily start thinking of gun violence as something native to America’s angry, intractable soul—the armed, anti-federalist takeover of wildlife-refuge buildings in Oregon this month seemed like proof. And when, time and again, Congress thwarts gun reforms that are supported by majorities of Americans it can be hard to imagine that the status quo will ever change.

If numbness benefits gun-rights absolutists, uninformed numbness might serve them even better. In 1993, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that “keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide” in that home. The researchers had been funded by the C.D.C.’s National Center for Injury Prevention, and the N.R.A. responded by trying to get the prevention center defunded. It didn’t succeed, but, in 1996, Congress amended an appropriations bill to the effect that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” It was a little like saying that no research on the health effects of smoking should be interpretable as anti-smoking. Congress also removed $2.6 million from the C.D.C.’s budget—the precise amount that had gone to the prevention center’s research—and then restored it, earmarked for an entirely different purpose. As a result, one of the study’s authors said in a public-radio interview last spring, “many, many people stopped doing gun research.”

With gun research, maybe we could have safer weapons as we have safer cars.  Maybe we would better understand the dangers of gun ownership.  Maybe we wouldn’t have to read about the six year old who finds Daddy’s gun and kills his two year old sister.

Jay Dickey, the Republican representative and N.R.A. member from Arkansas who sponsored the amendment, came to regret it. Dismayed by the continuing toll of gun violence, he was eventually persuaded that firearm deaths could be reduced without violating the Second Amendment. He now believes that research on gun violence can help prevent it, much as similar work on highway safety resulted in innovations like seat belts, air bags, highway dividers, and minimum drinking ages, and prevented hundreds of thousands of traffic deaths. In December, in a letter to Mike Thompson, the chairman of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Dickey wrote, “Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.” He added, “We should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.”

Talbot cites a recent study (not government funded) comparing the repeal of a permit and background check law in Missouri and the initiation of more stringent laws in Connecticut:  Gun homicides dropped around 40% in Connecticut and rose by a similar percentage in Missouri.

Those opposed to background checks, bans on weapons with large capacity magazine, or even trigger locks often say that the issue is one of mental health not guns.  I think our national obsession with guns IS the mental health issue.  They are a public health issue.  Talbot concludes

In part, Obama is trying to reframe the gun discussion not as a Second Amendment issue but as one of public health. This approach acknowledges that, while we can’t eliminate gun crime, we can reduce it, and that doing something is better than fatalistically doing nothing.

Photograph:  M&R Glasgow/Flickr

 

Marco and Barack and the State of the Union

The President did not awkwardly reach for a bottle of water during his speech.  In fact, I don’t remember him drinking at all.  John Boehner, however, seemed to be sipping from his glass often.  When he wasn’t looking dour, that is.  I’ll write more about substance later, but this post is about impressions.

The best description of the Speaker is from Joan Walsh in Salon

But Boehner’s disdain was unrivaled. He also managed not to rise even for a shout-out to “wounded warriors,” or 102-year-old Deseline Victor, who waited seven hours to vote in Miami on Election Day. It was sometimes hilarious to watch him next to Vice President Joe Biden, who looked like a happy Easter Bunny with his white hair, lavender tie, pink-tinted glasses and green Newtown ribbon. Biden seemed to occasionally enjoy standing up, clapping while looking down at Boehner sulking in his chair.

This is what she means.

When John Boehner just sat there

And then we can move on to Maureen Dowd on Marco Rubio.

The ubiquitous 41-year-old — who’s on the cover of Time as “The Republican Savior” — looked as if he needed some saving himself Tuesday night as he delivered the party’s response to the State of the Union address in English (and Spanish). He seemed parched, shaky and sweaty, rubbing his face and at one point lunging off-camera to grab a bottle of water.

Oh, that water lunge.  How it will haunt poor Marco!

John Cassidy writing for the New Yorker, calls him “Water Boy”.

To be fair to Rubio, with a combination of eye contact and vigorous hand  gestures, he was doing a decent job with the tough task of delivering a lengthy  speech to a camera in an empty room. But then, for some reason—and it must have  seemed like an urgent one to him—he decided to reach for a small plastic bottle  on a nearby table and take a swig, thereby almost ducking out of the camera shot  and sending the Twitterverse into hysterics. “Uh-oh. Water gulp—really bad TV  optics,” Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of  Virginia, tweeted. “SNL, Colbert, Stewart…here they come.” After that  diversion, Rubio appeared to realize his error, and he looked a bit shaken. For  some reason, the camera closed in on his face, which didn’t improve things. As  the Democratic pundit Paul Begala cruelly noted on Twitter, the Senator was sporting a sheen  of sweat that inspired memories of Richard Nixon.

Meanwhile, the President looked confident and sometimes very passionate as when he mentioned the need for Congress to vote on gun safety legislation.

The Republicans looked more like their leader.

That is Paul Ryan in the center.

For right now, the President has the upper hand.  Neither Marco Rubio nor Rand Paul advanced any ideas beyond those from the last election – which they lost.  Plus they presented a bad image all around.  Maybe the Republicans are right in saying the President offered nothing new, nothing really that he didn’t talk about during the campaign, but there is a big difference:  Barack Obama won based in large measure on those ideas.  No wonder they look like four year olds being told they can’t have desert.  And poor Marco.  Only time will tell if he can overcome his reach for water.

Photographs AP/Charles Dharapak, Bill O’Leary/Post, Melina Mara/Post

Civil Rights and President Obama: the Second Inaugural Address

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,”

Inaugural Addresses, particularly second addresses are not generally remembered.  There is John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not” address and there is Lincoln’s Second address.  You could throw in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second.

Lincoln said these now famous words

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

FDR noted the 150th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention and spoke about the role of government.

“We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.”

and pointed out that success would be judged not by adding wealth to those who already had wealth but whether it could

“provide enough for those who [had] too little.”

Add to the great second inaugural speeches of Roosevelt and Lincoln, Barack Obama’s.

John Nichols writing in the Nation said Obama’s speech “charts the arc of history that bends toward justice.”  The President took on  the unfinished business of civil rights – in equal pay for women, voting rights for minorities, and equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.  He said

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.

Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.

Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

He echoed FDR

“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few,”

I think the speech showed that second terms can liberate and that his second term will see him push unapologetically for an agenda that includes everyone – even Republicans if they choose to listen.

Photographs: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times and Doug Mills/The New York Times

44 Presidential drinks

I plan to open a bottle of champagne today and start celebrating early and I guess I’m not the only one.  I heard a story on NPR yesterday about Jim Hewes the bartender at the Willard Hotel Bar who has researched presidential history and created 44 drinks for our 44 Presidents.  I went looking for the complete list and found it on a Washington Post GOG blog.  So here, courtesy of NPR and the Post are some of those 44 drinks.

The Post points out

Hewes has certainly done his homework. Franklin D. Roosevelt represented by a Plymouth Gin Martini (the first drink he mixed up after the end of Prohibition), while James Garfield’s tipple is a Dewars Scotch, since industrialist Andrew Carnegie sent Garfield a case of Dewars to celebrate his inauguration.

Some of the list is based on conjecture: We don’t really know if Warren Harding ever drank a Seven and Seven, for example, though the mix of Canadian Whiskey and 7-Up was popular in his day. But it’s a fun and delicious trip through the history of drinking in America.

Hewes has even made some non alcoholic drinks for the teetotalers among our Presidents.

43. George W. Bush: Diet cola with a slice of lemon

Light and crisp, able to keep even the busiest Chief Executive, active, alert, and awake.

39. Jimmy Carter: Alcohol-Free Sparkling Wine

Served, much to the dismay of the fourth estate, throughout his four years in the White House.

30. Calvin Coolidge: Cranberry juice and soda

A gentle New England tonic to fortify one’s Puritan constitution.

19. Rutherford B. Hayes: Orange Blossom

Washington’s pressmen spiked the oranges with gin at the tea-totalling Hayes inaugural in 1877.

Jim Hewes of the Willard’s Round Robin Bar distills presidental history into 44 cocktails on his special inauguration menu. (Bill O’Leary/The Post)

Jim Hewes of the Willard’s Round Robin Bar distills presidental history into 44 cocktails on his special inauguration menu. (Bill O’Leary/The Post)

Is this the Coolidge cranberry with lime?  It looks like it might be. However I am much more interested in Cleveland, Madison  and Reagan who served champagne – or the California sparkling. Or in FDR or JFK who drank martinis.  FDR made his with Plymouth gin the way my husband makes mine. Some of the drinks sound pretty bad like James Monroe’s Sherry Cobbler.

According to NPR

The Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel is just a stone’s throw from the White House. Bartender Jim Hewes has been serving up drinks there for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve served presidents prior to their going to the White House and after,” he tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered, including Presidents Reagan, Ford and both Bushes.

The original Willard Hotel was built in the 19th Century. Abraham Lincoln slept there the night before his inauguration, and President Ulysses S. Grant would enjoy a drink and a cigar in the lobby.

So what about 44?  A blue drink, of course.

44. Barack Obama: Blue Hawaiian

Combines the president’s penchant for aged Tequila and the cool blue waters of the Pacific. Features aged Tequila, Curacao and fresh lime juice.

NPR provides the recipe

Serves One

Patron Silver Tequila, (2 oz.) Blue Curacao (1/2 oz.), lime juice (2 oz.)

-Muddle 3 lime wedges with tequila

-Add ice, Curacao and lime juice

-Shake and strain over crushed ice

-Garnish with a wheel of lime and pineapple

Washington, D.C., bartender Jim Hewes distills presidential history into cocktails.

So today we either celebrate or drown our sorrows.  Look at the complete list published by the Post and pick a drink.

Thank you, Jim Hewes!

Photograph Hewes at the bar Liz Baker/NPR

Taking the oath

President Obama just became the 16th President to take the oath of office for the second time.  There have been 57 inaugurations.

President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House. | AP Photo

Josh Gerstein commented on Politico

Barack Obama and John Roberts were all smiles when the chief justice swore in  the president on Sunday — and they’ll likely repeat the performance on  Monday.

But the serene tableau obscures the tumultuous relationship between the two  men since their first awkward public interaction during the botched oath of  office four years ago.

On Sunday, Roberts read the oath from a piece of paper — and both men seemed  relieved when it was over. They exchanged congratulations and thanks, and then  Obama turned to his daughter Sasha. “I did it,” he told her.

Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in earlier by Justice Sotomayor.

Vice-president Joe Biden takes the oath

Obama Photograph AP

Biden photograph Carolyn Kaster/AP

The electoral college votes

The Electoral College voted on Monday.

As the Washington Post pointed out

President Obama hasn’t officially secured a second term in the White House. Technically, that won’t happen until the electoral college casts its ballots Monday — presumably in favor of the winner for each state.

Even then, Congress has to formally declare Obama the victor after counting the electoral votes on Jan. 6.

Other than saying that every state has an elector for each senator and representative, the Constitution provides little guidance.  Federal law provides the framework.

Federal law requires state electors to meet in their respective state capitals every four years to cast their votes for president and vice president on the Monday after the second Wednesday of December. Otherwise, states largely set their own rules. In most states, an equal number of electors pledge themselves to each candidate, and the popular vote dictates which team of electors casts its votes.

So how did the voting go on Monday?  The Boston Globe had two stories:  One on the voting generally and one on Massachusetts.  I quote from both.

Ceremonies around the country had their share of pomp and electors in red, white and blue ties. Wisconsin’s electors donned pin-on buttons with headshots of the president. A bit of controversy erupted in Arizona, where a few electors voiced doubts that Obama was ‘‘properly vetted as a legitimate candidate for president’’ by raising debunked claims about his birth certificate.

In New Hampshire, electors supporting Obama signed their four ballots and then certificates that were sealed in envelopes with wax that has been in the secretary of state’s office for more than 70 years.

Vermont’s meeting of three electors was witnessed by a fifth-grade class.

Connecticut’s electors convened in the state Senate chamber and solemnly remembered the victims of last week’s school shooting before carrying out their task.

In Mississippi, which Romney carried comfortably, six men chosen earlier as electors met in a small committee room in the state Capitol and cast their votes for the GOP candidate. Well aware they were doing so in a lost cause, they opted for humor. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant, joked that Billy Mounger, an 86-year-old elector, probably wished to vote for Calvin Coolidge, a renowned small-government conservative president in the 1920s.

And is Massachusetts

The electors, who are chosen by the respective state party committees, entered the chamber  dressed in formal attire to a standing ovation.

Galvin [Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin]  said afterward that each party committee chooses a slate of people to sit on the Electoral College, and the slate from the winning party casts the final vote. Though they are not legally bound to vote for the winner of the November election, all of them have pledged to, Galvin said.

“It was a nice visit to history,” he said of the ceremony, which included classical music from Project Step, a group that provides musical instruction to minority youth, and a rendition of the national anthem from the Boston Children’s Chorus.

Now we wait for Congress to count the votes on January 6.  Then the re-election of Barack Obama will be official.  Until then some historical perspective.

Votes in the Electoral College, 1824.

Votes in the Electoral College, 1824. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)