President Obama nominated Jack Lew, left, as the Treasury Secretary, replacing Timothy Geithner, right, pictured here during a press conference Sept. 19, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Obama's nomination of all white men for three high level administration and cabinet spots have some questioning the hypocrisy in his positions on affirmative action. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file)
In a riveting turn of events, the Obama administration announced either a complete reversal of policy or a stunning logical gap on Tuesday. Responding to criticism that President Obama has not appointed enough women to his Cabinet, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sounded remarkably Republican, saying while diversity is important, expertise ultimately wins out.
By this logic, the president should clearly oppose affirmative action, a program that continually elevates diversity above expertise in our schools and workplaces.
Instead, the president has demonstrated a logical incongruity – he compels institutions to enforce diversity at the expense of qualified candidates while shunning affirmative action in the West Wing, where he values expertise over diversity any day of the week.
But there is, perhaps, one reason for the president’s inconsistency: the buck stops with the president. When Obama is actually in control of the outcome, expertise is his primary concern. Rightfully so. The president wants the best man or woman for the job regardless of race or gender because he knows the state of our nation’s economy and foreign policy depends on having the best leaders at the top.
The same should hold true for our nation’s schools and businesses. Harvard Business School should accept the best applicants; the state of our economy depends on it. The most qualified students should gain admission to PhD programs; the state of our academic institutions depends on it. And Johns Hopkins Medical School should admit the most promising doctors; our very lives depend on it.
In practice, Obama’s actions are in direct opposition to his pro-affirmative action rhetoric. His appointment of four white men to Cabinet positions in recent weeks should serve as evidence. And how about the fact that the Obama White House pays female staffers 18 percent less than male staffers?
These actions are in exact contradiction to what the Obama administration wrote in an amicus brief: “‘The government has a vital interest in drawing its personnel — many of whom will eventually become its civilian and military leaders — from a well-qualified and diverse pool of university and service-academy graduates of all backgrounds who possess the understanding of diversity that is necessary to govern and defend the United States.”
For all of Obama’s pro-diversity rhetoric, maybe it’s time for Obama to judge himself by his own standards. I suspect his administration would fail his own diversity litmus test!
While Obama’s hypocritical actions are entertaining to observe from the sidelines, they miss the real point, which is this – the most qualified people should be appointed to our nation’s most important positions regardless of gender or race. And America must end our obsession with viewing and analyzing every action through a racial or gender-oriented purview. Our nation will never arrive at true equality until we look past the factors that differentiate us.
Barack Obama famously said, “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America - there's the United States of America.” But what the president doesn’t understand is this – the beginning of one America is the end of affirmative action.