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

The politics of macho

In 1992 when he was running for President in a tight Democratic primary race, Bill Clinton rushed back to Arkansas where he was governor to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector.  According to a New York Times article at the time

Mr. Rector, 40 years old, was convicted in November 1982 and sentenced to die for the 1981 shooting death of Police Officer Bob Martin in Conway, Ark. He was also convicted of another murder that occurred two days earlier….

After shooting Officer Martin, Mr. Rector turned the gun on himself, destroying part of his brain. His lawyers said that even though he could speak, his mental capacities were so impaired that he did not know what death is or understand that the people he shot are not still alive.

“He is, in the vernacular, a zombie,” said Jeff Rosenzweig, a lawyer for Mr. Rector before the execution. “His execution would be remembered as a disgrace to the state.”

Mr. Rosenzweig said Mr. Clinton was harshly criticized as being soft on crime in 1980, when he was defeated by Frank White, his Republican opponent, in his first re-election bid. Mr. Clinton defeated Mr. White two years later and has been re-elected three more times.

Bill Clinton needed to show that a Democrat could be just as tough on crime as any Republican.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

Twenty-two years later we have Oklahoma governor, Mary Fallin, threatening to defy the Oklahoma Supreme Court while her allies in the legislature start to impeach justices.  Why?  Because they wanted to proceed with two executions.

States like Oklahoma have tried to protect drug companies by passing laws prohibiting the disclosure of what’s in their lethal injections. But attorneys have argued that state secrecy about what’s in those lethal injections violates the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” and some courts have agreed, including a court in Oklahoma that blocked Lockett’s execution. When the state Supreme Court backed the lower court, Fallin said she would defy it, insisting the court only had authority over civil, not criminal matters. Then the court shamefully reversed itself, after a state legislator promised to impeach the justices for staying the executions. Fallin forged ahead with the killing of Lockett and Charles Warner.

Now she is investigating what happened.  I think we know already.  Mary Fallin was so anxious to prove her toughness that she abandoned all good sense and tried to execute Clayton Lockett.  We all know how that worked out.

Then there is the critique of President Obama’s foreign policy from those who seek more military intervention in places like Ukraine and Syria.  The President has his own ideas as reported in the New York Times

On a day in which he announced new sanctions against Russia for its continued threats to Ukraine, Mr. Obama said his foreign policy was based on a workmanlike tending to American priorities that might lack the high drama of a wartime presidency but also avoided ruinous mistakes.

“You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with Mr. Aquino. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”

He was mocked in some circles with it being characterized as the “Ichiro” foreign policy after Ichiro Suzuki, the former Seattle Mariner and now New York Yankee who has made a very successful career out of hitting singles.  It shows that one doesn’t always have to hit home runs; home run hitters tend to strike out a lot.

Mr. Obama offered this trip as Exhibit A for the virtues of an incremental approach: He nudged along trade negotiations with Japan, consoled a bereaved ally in South Korea, cultivated ties with a once-hostile Malaysia and signed a modest defense agreement with the Philippines.

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force,” Mr. Obama said, “after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”

I was hoping that the era of macho politics was fading, but now, it seems that women governors need prove themselves just a tough as a man.  No one is saying that Clayton Lockett is a wonderful man who doesn’t deserve punishment, but perhaps Mary Fallin should take a page out of the President’s book and slow down.  Mr. Lockett wasn’t going anywhere and neither are the other inmates on Oklahoma’s death row.

Photograph: AP/Cliff Owen

 

What’s up with sequestration? Or we should have issued war bonds.

When I looked up sequestration in Merriam Webster, the closest meaning I could find to what is going on with the federal budget is

2
a: a legal writ authorizing a sheriff or commissioner to take into custody the property of a defendant who is in contempt until the orders of a court are complied with
b: a deposit whereby a neutral depositary agrees to hold property in litigation and to restore it to the party to whom it is adjudged to belong
So our tax dollars are being put aside until we pay down the debt or is it cut the deficit?  Back in 2004, the Treasury Department explained the difference this way.

What is the difference between the public debt and the deficit?

The deficit is the difference between the money Government takes in, called receipts, and what the Government spends, called outlays, each year.  Receipts include the money the Government takes in from income, excise and social insurance taxes as well as fees and other income.  Outlays include all Federal spending including social security and Medicare benefits along with all other spending ranging from medical research to interest payments on the debt.  When there is a deficit, Treasury must borrow the money needed for the government to pay its bills.

We borrow the money by selling Treasury securities like T-bills, notes, Treasury Inflation-Protected securities and savings bonds to the public. Additionally, the Government Trust Funds are required by law to invest accumulated surpluses in Treasury securities. The Treasury securities issued to the public and to the Government Trust Funds (intragovernmental holdings) then become part of the total debt.

One way to think about the debt is as accumulated deficits.

So back when Bill Clinton balanced the budget, we did not run a deficit and did not accumulate more debt.

While some on the right would argue that Clinton really didn’t reduce the deficit and he ruined the economy by raising taxes, I seem to remember that things were going pretty well for the average person during the Clinton years.

When George W. came into office he said he wanted to give us taxpayers back our surplus which probably would have been OK if he hadn’t then started 2 wars which we didn’t raise taxes of any kind to pay for.  No war bonds, no special tax assessment (used by state and local governments to pay for things), no general tax increase.  Thus the red ink on the chart above.  Then came what everyone is now calling the Great Recession.  Barack Obama really had no choice but to spend money to get the economy moving again.  We can argue about some of the spending – like saving some of the banks – but much of it work out pretty well, I think.

So now we have the sequester.  This was a deal made in 2011 to keep everything from coming to a halt.  I don’t think that anyone thought at the time that there wouldn’t be another budget deal to keep the cuts from going into effect, but so far no dice.  The New York Times ran an editorial on Sunday which is the best explanation of what the cuts would mean that I have seen.  For example:

NATIONAL SECURITY Two-week furloughs for most law-enforcement personnel will reduce Coast Guard operations, including drug interdictions and aid to navigation, by 25 percent. Cutbacks in Customs agents and airport security checkpoints will “substantially increase passenger wait times,” the Homeland Security Department said, creating delays of as much as an hour at busy airports. The Border Patrol will have to reduce work hours by the equivalent of 5,000 agents a year.

AIR TRAFFIC About 10 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s work force of 47,000 employees will be on furlough each day, including air traffic controllers, to meet a $600 million cut. The agency says it will be forced to reduce air traffic across the country, resulting in delays and disruptions, particularly at peak travel times.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE Every F.B.I. employee will be furloughed for nearly three weeks over the course of the year, the equivalent of 7,000 employees not working each day. The cut to the F.B.I. of $550 million will reduce the number of background checks on gun buyers that the bureau can perform, and reduce response times on cyberintrusion and counterterrorism investigations.

A three-week furlough of all food safety employees will produce a shortage of meat, poultry and eggs, pushing prices higher and harming restaurants and grocers. The Agriculture Department warns that public health could be affected by the inevitable black-market sales of uninspected food.

RECREATION National parks will have shorter hours, and some will have to close camping and hiking areas. Firefighting and law enforcement will be cut back.

DEFENSE PERSONNEL Enlisted personnel are exempt from sequester reductions this year, but furloughs lasting up to 22 days will be imposed for civilian employees, who do jobs like guarding military bases, handle budgets and teach the children of service members. More than 40 percent of those employees are veterans.

The military’s health insurance program, Tricare, could have a shortfall of up to $3 billion, which could lead to denial of elective medical care for retirees and dependents of active-duty service members.

And the list goes on.

The editorial concludes

Last week, Senate Democrats produced a much better plan to replace these cuts with a mix of new tax revenues and targeted reductions. About $55 billion would be raised by imposing a minimum tax on incomes of $1 million or more and ending some business deductions, while an equal amount of spending would be reduced from targeted cuts to defense and farm subsidies.

Republicans immediately rejected the idea; the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, called it “a political stunt.” Their proposal is to eliminate the defense cuts and double the ones on the domestic side, heedless of the suffering that even the existing reductions will inflict. Their refusal to consider new revenues means that on March 1, Americans will begin learning how austerity really feels.

Remember the definition of sequestration I began with?  It is a temporary thing.  The money is supposed to come back to us.  If the sequestration cuts really happen, I can bet you they won’t be temporary.  We are reaping the cost of wars most of us didn’t want and any rational solution will be held up by the same folks who did want to go to war.  We should have had war bonds.

THE VICTORY FUND COMMITTEE CAN HELP YOUR MONEY...

THE VICTORY FUND COMMITTEE CAN HELP YOUR MONEY WIN THIS WAR THROUGH INVESTMENT IN U.S. TREASURY SECURITIES SUITED TO… – NARA – 515674 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why voting for Obama is important in blue states

If you are like me and live in a state that has already an insurmountable lead for President Obama’s re-election you might be tempted to vote third party, but it is still important for you to vote for Obama.  Why?  The popular vote total.  The pundits and headlines will continue to say the race is tied.  Forget the electoral college which in most estimates have Obama now over the 279 mark with some headed to 300.  No it is the popular vote where there is potential trouble.

Willard Mitt is too close for comfort. This morning Nate Silver puts it at 50.6 to 48.3 or a 2.3% margin for the President.  The margin of error is 2.1.  Much of the Romney vote comes from Red States and that is what is making it look close.  Unless Obama wins both the popular vote and the electoral college, the Republicans can complain about the results.  You know they will.  They are already beginning to blame Hurricane Sandy for the loss.

Of course, we won’t know until the votes are counted how things will turn out.  Polls can be wrong and folks like Nate depend on aggregating polls, but as an Obama supporter, I do feel hopeful.

Also it looks as if Elizabeth Warren will beat Senator Scott Brown.  Let’s hope that’s the last time I have to call him that!  And better yet, it is beginning to look like my old friend, Tim Kaine, will win in Virginia.

This shows President Clinton, President Obama and Tim Kaine.  This is an important sign:  The Democratic Senate candidate is not running from the President.  In a purple state.

So if you live in a blue state, don’t be thinking your vote for Obama doesn’t matter because it does.

A Conservative History Lesson

This is from yesterday’s Shouts and Murmers column by Jack Hitt blogged in the New Yorker Magazine.  I thought about posting the entire thing, but decided on trying to pick some highlights.  The interesting thing is that often Shouts and Murmers is fictionalized or even pure fiction but Hitt has included approprite citations.  Let’s start at the beginning.

1500s: The American Revolutionary War begins: “The reason we fought  the revolution in the sixteenth century was to get away from that kind of  onerous crown.”—Rick Perry

1607: First welfare state collapses: “Jamestown colony, when it was  first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and  dying in the snow.”—Dick Armey

1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other  than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele  Bachmann

Bet the folks at Jamestown didn’t know it was socialist venture.  I always thought they were looking for things that would make them rich.

1776: The Founding Synod signs the Declaration of Independence: “…those fifty-six brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen.”—Mike  Huckabee

1787: Slavery is banned in the Constitution: “We also know that the  very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no  more in the United States.”—Michele Bachmann

1801: “Thomas Jefferson creates the Marines for the Islamic pirates  that were happening.”—Glenn Beck

And the blog helpfully includes a picture of the “Founding Synod.”

conservative-history.jpg

Illustration courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Moving on to the Civil War, I bet you didn’t know this.

1861:Civil  War breaks out over pitting “individual rights as proclaimed in the  Declaration of Independence against collective rights.”—The Weekly  Standard

More recent history doesn’t fare much better.

1916:Planned  Parenthood opens genocide clinics: “When Margaret Sanger—check my  history—started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in  primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they  came into the world.”—Herman Cain

1950: Senator Joseph McCarthy saves America from Communism: “Joe  McCarthy was a great American hero.”—Representative Steve King

1963: G.O.P. clergyman delivers his famous “I have a dream” speech: “It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a  Republican.”—Human Events blog

1964: Republicans fight for the Civil Rights Act: “We were the people  who passed the civil-rights bills back in the sixties without very much help  from our colleagues across the aisle.”—Representative Virginia Foxx

1967: Indonesia brainwashes its first Islamic terrorist spybot: “Why  didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised—spent the first  decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father—as a Muslim and was educated in  a Madrassa?”—Steve Doocy

And to the Clinton years.

1993: Hillary Clinton claims her first kill, Vincent Foster—Jerry  Falwell video

1994: Bill Clinton tops Hillary with twenty-four murders: these people  died “under other than natural circumstances.”— Representative William  Dannemeyer.

1998: Actually, the Clinton murders number forty people: “There was  talk that this would be another body to add to the list of forty bodies or  something that were associated with the Clinton Administration.”—Linda  Tripp.

1998: Update: Clinton murders eighty people: “In recent months, a list  of more than 80 deaths associated directly or indirectly with Clinton has been  the buzz of the new media.”—Joseph Farah

And finally to things I know you didn’t know that President Obama can add to his list of accomplishments.

2011: Arabic is declared America’s second language: “Some of our  state’s educational administrators joined the feds in seeking to mandate Arabic  classes for Texas children.”—Chuck Norris

2011: Obama outlaws fishing: people “can’t go fishing anymore because  of Obama.”—Rush Limbaugh

2011: Obama provides health insurance for dogs: “In the health care  bill, we’re now offering insurance for dogs.”—Glenn Beck

All I can say it is a good thing that the President included health care for dogs because Seamus could have probably used it.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2012/09/a-conservative-history-of-the-united-states.html#ixzz271B7Vxj5

 

 

Bob Smith, White House Piano Man

Politico.com had this great human interest piece today about Bob Smith who first played at the White House for Richard Nixon, but retired before George W. 

According to Politico

Former White House pianist Bob Smith provided entertainment to presidents, their spouses and guests for more than 30 years. As such, he has plenty of stories to tell — like the one from his White House debut, with the Army Band Chorus, at Tricia Nixon’s 1971 St. Patrick’s Day engagement party. “My Three Sons” star Fred MacMurray arrived at the event seemingly inebriated and took up the saxophone. 

 “He was just horrible. … The most awful thing you heard in your life,” Smith recalled. President Richard Nixon asked Smith to “get rid of him,” and Smith, with help from the Secret Service, complied.

Bob Smith plays the piano.

Made official White House pianist,

…First lady Pat Nixon, Smith said, used to bypass protocol and call him directly on his home phone to ask him personally to play various events—from background music at cocktail parties and receptions, to sitting in as accompanist to a hired musical act.

He later played for and with the Clintons and Gores

Later, he got along great with the Clintons. He and the president bonded over their shared love of playing music. Smith recalled several duets he played with Clinton on sax, an instrument “that was always in reaching distance” of the president.

 He was in with the Gores, too.

 “So while I’m doing saxophone things with [Clinton] at the White House, I’d go over to the vice president’s house, [where] Tipper Gore had her drum set set-up outside in the living room next to the grand piano. She’d come over and say, ‘Can I sit in?,’” Smith recalled. Tipper Gore was a “very good player,” he said.

Over the years, Smith also had numerous interactions with celebrity White House visitors, including Audrey Hepburn and Lena Horne, who sang along while he played. Cary Grant once skipped out of a White House dinner to sit outside the dining room at the piano with Smith. At the actor’s request, Smith said, the two played Cole Porter songs for over an hour.

But the reason he retired is one of the most interesting parts of the story

Smith decided to retire when the Clintons moved out of the White House because, after playing for Bush 41 and spending time with the Bush family, he preferred leave before Bush 43 moved in.

 President George H.W. Bush “was very cool,” Smith said. “But there were too many times where I saw [his son, President George W. Bush,] over that time where he was less than statesmanlike,” he laughed.

Maybe the Obamas should get him out of retirement.