If all goes well for President Barack Obama, there will be three African Americans in the president’s White House Cabinet.
Obama will have three black Cabinet members if Congress confirms the nomination of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next Secretary of Transportation. Foxx will be the first black nominee among Obama’s selections for open spots in his second term.
And Obama’s choice of Foxx couldn’t come at a better time.
Foxx’s nomination takes a bit of heat off of Obama who has been criticized by some black Democrats and activists for failing to appoint more African Americans to top White House jobs. Even some white columnists have called Obama’s administration “too white.”
Presently, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are the only African Americans in Obama’s Cabinet, but the president is attempting to diversify his Cabinet after Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) wrote Obama a letter scolding him for his lack of racial diversity in the White House and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) called Obama’s appointments of whites “problematic”.
“It’s embarrassing as hell,” said Rangel, one of the most senior black members of Congress. Rangel, who has never been one of Obama’s biggest supporters, said Democrats expect more from America’s first black president. “I kinda think there’s no excuse when it’s the second term. If it’s the first term, you could see people got to know who is around and qualified in order to get this job, number one.”
Back in January, I said Americans should give Obama a break because he deserves time to complete his Cabinet appointments. And now, three months later, Obama is entering his second term in office and Fudge congratulated Obama, saying Foxx was a good choice.
“I am especially pleased the president has appointed Anthony Foxx as Secretary of Transportation,” Fudge said in a statement. “Through his work as mayor and as a city councilman in Charlotte, Anthony addressed the needs of an area that experienced tremendous growth within the past decade. Anthony will surely be an asset to the president’s cabinet and to this nation and I look forward to working with him to ensure the needs of our country’s transportation system are adequately met.”
I suspect Obama isn’t done yet, although scrutiny has been mounting over the number of women and minorities that surrounds the nation’s first black president in his second term. Cabinet members who are departing at the end of his first term — including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — are being replaced largely by white males, including John Kerry, the new Secretary of State.
But the president was forced to defend his record on diversity recently after Democrats started lining up to criticize Obama for appointing too many white men to his Cabinet and not selecting enough women and people of color to his inner circle.
“I’m very proud that in the first four years, we had as diverse, if not a more diverse, White House and a Cabinet than any in history,” Obama said earlier this year. “I intended to continue that, because it turns out when you look for the very best people, given the incredible diversity of this country, you’re going to end up with a diverse staff.”
Meanwhile, the White House says that as mayor, Foxx has experience in boosting transit projects to create jobs, which included oversight of an electric tram service to Charlotte, an expansion of a light rail system and the opening of a third runway at the city’s airport.
“The city has managed to turn things around,” the president said. “The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity. And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history.”
Foxx was first elected Charlotte mayor in 2009. He would replace outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood, one of the few Republicans serving in the Obama administration.
Some Republicans have already expressed skepticism about Foxx, saying they know little about him and that he doesn’t have long-term experience in the transportation industry. And in a move that has infuriated Foxx, The North Carolina General Assembly is considering a bill that would move control of the airport from the city to an independent agency.
But according to The Charlotte Observer, Foxx has the backing of several transportation industry groups, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and AAA.
And Rev. Al Sharpton also released a statement of support for Foxx.
“The National Action Network is delighted with the nomination of Mayor Anthony Foxx to the position of Secretary of Transportation,” the statement said. “Mayor Foxx has shown that he is beyond capable in his role as the Mayor of Charlotte through his work of improving and expanding transportation in that city. We look forward to continuing to work together with the Department of Transportation under the leadership of Mayor Foxx and urge [the] Senate to confirm him without delay.”