Goolsbee Victim of Reverse Discrimination?
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.