Anthony Liveris | The redundant cabinet
Liberatus | President Obama has surrounded himself with more of the same
January 22, 2013, 12:55 am·
The second term has officially begun, but there is a serious flaw in President Obama’s newly appointed cabinet.
Don’t get me wrong — Obama’s new cabinet is comprised of highly qualified, intelligent and cautious men.
However, criticism of the newly released appointments has exploded, specifically focusing on the lack of racial or gender diversity. These criticisms, albeit noteworthy, completely miss the mark.
The flaw in Obama’s second term cabinet is much deeper than the notion that the first African-American president is not being racially sensitive enough.
The flaw in Obama’s leadership is much more realistic than saying the man who passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and has Valerie Jarrett as a senior advisor has not aided the cause for gender equality.
The flaw in Obama’s cabinet is based on a different kind of diversity.
Throughout the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles, Obama’s campaign drew intentional comparisons between Obama and Abraham Lincoln. Indeed there are notable crossovers in the triumphs of their respective stories.
However, in office, instead of modeling his leadership style and team members off of Lincoln’s “team of rivals,” President Obama has significantly departed from Honest Abe. In a recent interview with PBS, David Brooks labeled Obama’s new cabinet as a “team of loners.”
President Obama has surrounded himself with a team of “yes men.” These highly qualified, intelligent and cautious men are also incredibly talented at agreeing with the president.
Why? Because, by and large, they are far more similar to the president than Abraham Lincoln will ever be.
Ivy-educated, establishments of the center-left Democratic Party, outsiders to business and incredibly insular, Obama’s cabinet can be seen as an extension of himself rather than a team meant to counter and develop his ideas.
More so, out of a desire for continued loyalty, these men are hardly new to the president. David Brooks concludes that all of these factors leave the Oval Office with a “lack of freshness.”
The best example of this lack of diversity is Obama’s appointment for defense secretary, Sen. Chuck Hagel. In contrast to the previous defense secretary, Leon Panetta, Sen. Hagel epitomizes the intellectual, introverted and pensive mantra that has become the most realistic depiction of Obama.
In 1998, Hagel launched an attack on President Clinton’s nomination for ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, calling him, “openly, aggressively gay.”
Last Tuesday, Hagel proclaimed that he would fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, allowing the extension of equal rights to LGBT servicemen and women. I fully support the extension of equality to the LGBT community — it is the blatant insincerity in Hagel’s remarks that irks me.
Considering Hagel’s long record of only supporting “traditional marriage” in the Senate, it is clear that Hagel was fully aware that he would not be a contender for defense secretary unless he supported the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
This lack of ideological diversity in Obama’s cabinet extends to each of his recent nominations. Secretary of State nominee John Kerry, director of the CIA nominee John Brennan and Treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew will all serve the country well, but only so long as they exactly conform to the president’s agenda.
It is clear that in his second term President Obama was searching for candidates who were of a more agreeable standing. In regards to secretary of state, the nominations of John Kerry and Susan Rice completely fit that formula — unlike Hillary Clinton, both candidates are long-term Obama allies.
Obama is smart and progressive. I have no doubt he will continue to extend equality to previously oppressed factions of society that deserve the same rights as every American citizen. It is in areas of weakness — such as manufacturing, energy, business — that I am worried.
How can Obama properly address these sectors when his cabinet is officially full of men with the same strengths as the president and the unwillingness to challenge his positions — insular men who mimic Obama more than combat him?
As we embark on Obama’s next four years, we must ask ourselves if this is truly a formula for growth.
Anthony Liveris is a College junior and vice president of College Republicans from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @AnthonyLiveris. “Liberatus” usually appears every other Monday.