Bean-counters of the world, unite!


Susan Rice disappears once again: We’re going to give Ruth Marcus credit.

Today, she writes a column on a topic which became an instant standard: Obama doesn’t have enough women in his second-term cabinet!

Let’s give Marcus credit. Even as she calls Obama’s selections “a shame,” she mentions a famous name in just her fifth paragraph:
MARCUS (1/10/13): To be clear: I’ve got nothing against white guys. Some of my best husbands are white guys. White guys get to be secretary of state, too, and John Kerry will be the first in 16 years. But to look at the most important jobs in the government, in 2013, and see such lack of diversity is just so drearily disappointing.

Especially because it could easily have been so different. Imagine the tableau of Obama flanked by secretary of state nominee Susan Rice and defense secretary nominee Michèle Flournoy. That would have been the ultimate you’ve-come-a-long-way moment.
Presumably, we all know why Rice isn’t in that tableau, although Marcus doesn’t explain.

At least Marcus mentioned her name. Yesterday, the New York Times achieved a strange feat. It presented a 1200-word front-page report about Obama’s lack of female nominees without mentioning Rice at all.

Here it is—Annie Lowrey’s front-page report in which Rice’s name does not appear. Could Pravda airbrush recent embarrassments any better? Twelve hundred words about this peculiar lack of women without mentioning Rice at all!

Rice to the side, we thought the Lowrey piece had a slightly strange bean-counter aspect. In just its third paragraph, the Times was weirdly tut-tutting:
LOWREY (1/9/13): From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.
The Obama administration “has done no better than the Clinton administration,” Lowrey all-knowingly says, seeming to think Mother Times knows best about what that percentage should be.

In fact, 43 percent is rather close to 50 percent, which is often said to be half. Are we sure that an administration should be “doing better” than that?

How much better should Obama be doing? Lowrey seems to know, but she refuses to tell.

We ask that question for a reason. Lowrey ends her tut-tutting report with an unfortunate blast from the real world:
LOWREY: An analysis of a separate pool of federal personnel data found that the number of high-level female political appointees outside the White House was about the same under Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama, though it fell under Mr. Bush. Women held about 35 percent of those positions, like assistant secretary, in 2011 and 1999. Women held about 25 percent in 2007. The Clinton administration named significantly more women to political appointments than prior administrations, about 44 percent over all.

Though the percentage of women in the last two Democratic administrations has held roughly steady, there are a record number of women in Congress this year: 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House.
Lowrey lets us exult at the “record number of women” in the new Congress, even though the numbers she cites are very low. According to the analysts, those twenty women in the Senate represent only twenty percent of the total!

The Congress is only one feeder system for the Cabinet, but it has been an important one for Obama. Does the low representation of women in such bodies affect the availability of high-ranking women for Cabinet picks? Or are presidents simply supposed to check off the boxes, no matter who they end up with?

With regard to the overall complaint, might we review recent history?

Everybody sat around and let Susan Rice get slimed. Now we brightly turn around and complain about the lack of women in Obama’s Cabinet! Needless to say, Margaret Carlson clowned the hardest in this wise-cracking, sarcastic new column.

What did Margaret Carlson say while Susan Rice was getting slimed? According to the Bloomberg archive, not a single word!

Hilarious wags of the world, unite: Marcus and Carlson are willing to share, at least when it comes to a headline:
Carlson, 1/8/13: Obama to Romney: Send Me Your Binders Full of Women
Marcus, 1/10/13: Obama needs some binders of women
Based on a careful analysis of the dates, we’re going to say that Carlson got there first.

We’re also going to say that she played an unfortunate card in her opening paragraph, if that first paragraph makes any sense at all:
CARLSON (1/8/13): President Barack Obama suffers from Groucho Marx syndrome: He favors those in the club he doesn’t belong to. Otherwise how to explain why he is fighting for Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense but didn't for Susan Rice to be secretary of state?
Apparently, the club he belongs to is the black club. What else can that clever quip mean?

Carlson has been this way for a while. She used to do this on the air.


  1. Well, she could mean Obama and Hagel are men; Rice is not. I would think that makes more sense in the context of the column than dragging race into it. Carlson may be useless, but Bob's criticism in this instance is simply wrong.

    1. Well, she could mean Obama and Hagel are men; Rice is not. I would think that makes more sense in the context of the column than dragging race into it.

      That doesn't make any sense, actually, since for the Groucho Marx allusion to work, the club in question has to be one Obama and Rice don't belong to but Hagel does. But I do think Somerby has misread this one: she's talking about the fact that Hagel is a Republican while Obama and Rice are Democrats.

  2. Re: Margaret Carlson. Didn't Tucker Carlson spring forth, fully uninformed, from her loins?

  3. I know that it is conventional Beltway wisdom that Susan Rice was primed to be Secretary of State until shot down by rabid Republicans/feckless "liberal" media (take your pick), but I have never been able to find anything that remotely confirms that, except for speculation from Beltway types who seldom speculate correctly about anything.

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  4. I am still scratching my head over the Susan Rice story. Apart from some initial support from the president it did seem that any follow up support was weak or non existent. I am well aware there may be some good reasons behind the scenes that explain why it played out the way it did but I haven't a clue just what really was going on.

    1. TDH never says why the President himself never defended Rice during the two months after her Benghazi statements. Of course, it wasn't easy to support Rice because she eventually admitted that her statements were not correct. Though she never says when she knew they were incorrect. Go figure. Anyway, Rice is still a cabinet-level appointee serving as UN Ambassador. Her career is still humming along...

    2. You are so right, anyone who ever makes an "incorrect" statement at any time is disqualified from being appointed to the Cabinet or serving in government; this principle is very strictly enforced, to go so far as to disqualify Susan Rice for a statement that wasn't even incorrect.

      AC/ MA

    3. Back in the real world, Susan Rice issued a press release saying her Sep 16 comments were "incorrect in a key respect:there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi."

  5. "Apparently, the club he belongs to is the black club. What else can that clever quip mean?"

    What else could she mean? Are you kidding? Obviously she means Hagel is a Republican and Obama and Rice are Democrats.

    1. No, that's her cover for a very snide remark.

    2. Anonymous 2:46 AM = mindreader
      Bob Somerby = mindreader

  6. Susan Rice removed herself from the running. She stated that she didn't want to be a distraction. Susan Rice was never a distraction unless one considers a herd of republicans, rallied by a dementia casualty, being dishonest about her "unforgivable" error that ranked right along side missing weapons of mass destruction, the deliberate exposure of a covert intelligence agent and that Saddam Hussein represented a real threat to the U.S. The day has yet to come when thousands of Iraqi swimmers and divers sneak onto the shores along the eastern seaboard to kill some of us while we sleep.

    It disappointed me to see another democratic official succumb to the republican trial by media strategy that has worked so well for them in recent years. The new breed of journalists who profess their loyalty to an ongoing silent coup to satisfy a pathological desire to live under a plutocracy or fascist state that rewards them handsomely for their betrayals, obviously are incapable of feeling shame.

    The betrayers are shocked by criticism that exposes their manipulative behavior, because they believe their perception is teh perception of experienced and informed traitors who participate in the process to prove their worth to the "Ministry of Truth."