Goolsbee Victim of Reverse Discrimination?

Economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, right, listens as Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama answeres questions at a campaign stop in Albuquerque on Feb. 1. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, right, listens as Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama answeres questions at a campaign stop in Albuquerque on Feb. 1. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

One would think that a biracial president named “Barack Obama” who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia would feel a certain freedom from the need to demonstrate his bonafides on the diversity front. Not so much, it seems.

Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee — once the chief economic adviser to candidate Barack Obama — may be less of a shoo-in to chair Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers than his admirers once imagined.

The Obama transition team is interviewing to find a woman, perhaps a minority woman, to fill the CEA chair — a Senate-confirmed position. Informed sources suggest the candidates on the CEA list now include Princeton University economics and public affairs professor Cecilia Elena Rouse, whose specialty is labor economics. The hunt for a woman, explained several sources close to the transition deliberations, is aimed at broadening the white-male cast of the White House team assembled to date (the current tally of announced picks is 3 women, 9 men).

Megan McArdle is bummed.

[T]he worst financial crisis in seventy years is really not the time to see if you can brighten up the CEA offices with a nice, decorative matched set of X chromosomes.  […] Needless to say, given that Obama’s sterling choice of highest-caliber economic advisors was one of my main reason for supporting him, my regret is mounting faster than ever.

Her first commenter retorts:

Elect a Democrat, get a Democrat. We aren’t even past Thanksgving yet, let alone the Innaugural Ball; a bit early for buyer’s remorse, don’t ya think?

I’m again reminded of  Jeff Medcalf‘s comment posted on Dave Schuler’s Other Blog recently:  “[M]any of the people voting for Obama seem to be doing so on the hope that he doesn’t mean what he says, and most of the people voting for McCain are doing so on the fear that Obama means exactly what he says.”

Obama ran on an overt platform of “CHANGE!” but on a more understated platform of competence and a covert platform of conciliation.  He has thus far emphasized the last two, necessarily at the expense of the first.

Much to the consternation of the Netroots, he’s filling his administration with people who served in Bill Clinton’s administration.  But where else was he going to find Democrats competent in the ways of Washington?  It’s well and good to want “CHANGE!” but people who don’t know what they’re doing are hard pressed to deliver it. Unfortunately, this means pragmatic compromise.

Similarly, party building means outreach to Hillary Clinton, including apparently naming her Secretary of State, and making sure that the usual constituencies are placated.  That means a share of the spoils in a highly visible way.

Goolsbee will be a prominent economic voice in Obama’s administration.  But, alas, there are only so many jobs for balding, 40-something white dudes with PhDs.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. odograph says:

    All these stories are way too fast off the blocks. Wait to see what job if any Goolsbee gets. (And don’t forget the Canada gaffe)

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Second. Let’s wait and see if this is what actually happens before we pass judgment…

  3. davod says:

    “Second. Let’s wait and see if this is what actually happens before we pass judgment…”

    Yea, Yea, Yea. Lets give Obama a no comment lovefest for at least the first six years of his first term.

    This is why he is President. The MSM gave him a two year comment free period in the runup to the primary and election.

    Why do you think these rumors abound?

  4. odograph says:

    This is why he is President.

    Someone has a time portal.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Heh, another thing Megan was wrong about. I’m amused.

  6. c says:

    Naming Clinton SOS is placating the usual constituencies and sharing the spoils in a highly visible way?

    Why can’t it be said that he may just want to make use of her smarts and stamina and experience? It’s not as if he really believed all that campaign rhetoric against her.

    Of course he’s inexperienced, but he’s not stupid! Another word to describe these “insiders” is competent. He’s always found a way to get the support and to make use of those he needs in order to first get elected.
    Now that he has no higher office to aspire to, he can for the first time in his political career actually DO something.
    Let’s see what he does.

  7. Floyd says:

    So, the Clinton’s and half their entourage are back in the executive branch to initiate hope and change? Sounds like the S.O.S. to me, and I don’t mean Secretary Of State.[lol]

    Also,I see that the article says that MLK’s dream is a rejected lie.

  8. davod says:

    With all the Clintonites back, Hillary can run the country from State.

  9. just me says:

    I can’t think of anything that qualifies Hillary for Secretary of State. But that’s just me.

    I realize Obama is looking to make nice with them, but I think this position is making a little too much nice.

    I am not surprised Obama is going to go for tokenism over quality when it comes to appointments-tokenism anymore is how presidential or really executive branch politics are played.

  10. al bee says:

    I can not disagree with any of the commenters. They seem to hit the target dead center.

    If you hire a neighborhood orgynizer that is what you get.