Black political appointees

Posted: Dec 17, 2002 12:00 AM
President Bush has done far more to address the everyday concerns of black Americans than any president of recent memory. That includes former President Bill Clinton who became an honorary black man when he pledged to have a cabinet that "looked like America." And indeed, Clinton assembled the most racially and ethnically diverse cabinet ever. By the end of his first year, the Washington Post reported that 22 percent of his appointees were minorities. Much of black America found this all wonderful and amazing. They clasped the president close to their bosom. And with good reason. The diversity of Clinton's cabinet facilitated more hiring of African Americans in government at every level. This created a positive ripple effect throughout the community. For example, a black politician may maintain close associations with other black community figures, such as ministers, teachers, entrepreneurs and union officials. These interlocking relationships proclaim to black Americans that they are part of the administration, while keeping the administration in touch with the chief concerns of black voters. Very good. But few in the press acknowledged that while Clinton facilitated the ethnic diversity of his cabinet, he tended not to appoint blacks to top policy positions. As former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers snorted after vacating her post, the upper echelon of Clinton's cabinet is a "white boys club." Like Clinton, President Bush has consciously assembled an ethnically diverse cabinet. The Washington Post reports that 25 percent of Bush's appointees are minorities. Bush has far superseded Clinton, however, when it comes to appointing blacks to top posts. According to a recent White House release, minorities have filled 45 percent of the administration's highest policy positions. Most notable are the appointments of Gen. Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser. Every time Bush enters the situation room or sits down with foreign leaders, Rice and Powell flank him on either side. Other high-profile black appointees include Education Secretary Rod Paige, HUD Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson, deputy secretary for HHS, Claude Allen, and Veterans Administration deputy secretary, Dr. Leo Mackay. At the same time, Bush has crafted an education reform policy that holds the promise of a new civil rights movement. Currently, school districts mirror housing patterns. As a result, economically segregated communities have produced economically segregated public schools. The result is a brutal and arbitrary divide between rich and poor, urban and suburban, minority and white. There exists an astonishing body of evidence that these "poor, minority" schools are failing to properly educate their students. Bush's education reforms - specifically his support of vouchers - could help redress this inequality by holding public schools accountable for the proper education of their students, while ensuring that poor people - mostly of color - no longer remain trapped in schools that are failing their needs. This change could be the single most important factor in redressing the achievement gap between the races. Additionally, President Bush has pushed programs aimed at facilitating home ownership, welfare reform and faith-based initiatives - all issues that are of chief concern to black voters. When former President Clinton proclaimed that he would facilitate racial inclusiveness within the government, the press all found it dazzling. When President Bush did much the same - and then some - the press barely took notice. But, if the midterm results are any indication, this rousing fact has not gone unnoticed by the American electorate.