Trump’s Cabi­net a new take on di­ver­sity

Ad­viser: Abil­ity, not color, is key

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

A top ad­viser to Don­ald Trump on di­ver­sity is­sues is of­fer­ing no apolo­gies for the pre­pon­der­ance of white men fill­ing the Cabi­net and key jobs in the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­sist­ing that the lack of mi­nori­ties re­flected the pres­i­dent-elect’s color-blind ap­proach to hir­ing de­ci­sions.

Bruce Lev­ell, who spear­headed a mi­nor­ity out­reach ef­fort for the Trump cam­paign and now serves as an ad­viser to the tran­si­tion team, said that Mr. Trump isn’t look­ing to check off di­ver­sity boxes with his hir­ing de­ci­sions — and that’s OK with black and His­panic Amer­i­cans.

“Pres­i­dent-elect Trump doesn’t re­ally so much look at the Cabi­net and say, ‘Hey, I need a black guy over here and I need a woman over there,’” said Mr.

Lev­ell, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Di­ver­sity Coali­tion for Trump. “He fights very hard to put the best in­di­vid­ual that’s qual­i­fied who can run the agency for his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Most peo­ple of color are OK with the fact that, ‘Hey, if this per­son is qual­i­fied and can do the job, then God bless him.’ ”

As for his own or­ga­ni­za­tion, Mr. Lev­ell added, “We’re not so hung up on how many black ap­pointees there are go­ing to be or how many His­panic ap­pointees there’s go­ing to be. We gen­er­ally want the best qual­i­fied.”

Still, Mr. Trump has come un­der fire for fill­ing his Cabi­net with white men — and very rich white men at that.

Demo­cratic strate­gist David Ax­el­rod, a for­mer ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Obama, poked fun at the lack of di­ver­sity in a tweet: “So far, give @re­alDon­aldTrump credit for as­sem­bling a di­verse Cabi­net, mix­ing bil­lion­aires with just plain multi-mil­lion­aires.”

Marc H. Mo­rial, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ur­ban League and for­mer mayor of New Or­leans, said that the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and the char­ac­ter of those se­lected by Mr. Trump were not the is­sue.

“There are many white men who are ex­tremely savvy and sen­si­tive and un­der­stand­ing of di­ver­sity. There is no ques­tion about that,” he said in a re­cent “News Hour” in­ter­view on PBS. “The ques­tion is, do peo­ple feel their voices are heard? That’s re­ally im­por­tant, that com­mu­ni­ties feel some­one is at the ta­ble with my point of view.”

Of 18 Cabi­net-level picks so far, Mr. Trump has se­lected 13 white men, two women of Asian des­cent and one white woman. The only black nom­i­nee so far is re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon and for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son, tapped to run the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

The most prom­i­nent agen­cies and de­part­ments are all set to be run by white men: ExxonMo­bile CEO Rex Tiller­son for sec­re­tary of state, re­tired Marine Gen. James N. Mat­tis for de­fense sec­re­tary, Alabama Sen. Jeff Ses­sions for at­tor­ney gen­eral and bil­lion­aire in­vestor Steven Mnuchin to run the Trea­sury Depart­ment.

The pres­i­dent-elect also has se­lected seven White House se­nior ad­vis­ers, with all but one — Kellyanne Con­way as pres­i­den­tial coun­selor — be­ing white men.

Mr. Trump has not nom­i­nated a His­panic, with just two of­fi­cial Cabi­net posts — agri­cul­ture and vet­er­ans af­fairs — left to fill. By com­par­i­son, Pres­i­dent Obama’s first Cabi­net in­cluded 20 po­si­tions oc­cu­pied by eight white men, three white women, three Asian men, two black men, two black women, one His­panic man and one His­panic woman.

Mr. Lev­ell said that Mr. Trump is in­clud­ing mi­nori­ties in other ways. He noted the re­cent meet­ing with NFL greats Jim Brown and Ray Lewis about is­sues fac­ing black com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr. Brown is a Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in­ductee and eight-time NFL rush­ing leader. Since re­tir­ing from the NFL, he has worked to help black com­mu­ni­ties. He came out of the meet­ing at Trump Tower singing praise of the next pres­i­dent.

“I fell in love with him, be­cause he re­ally talks about help­ing African-Amer­i­cans, black peo­ple, and that’s why I’m here,” Mr. Brown said on CNN.

He also said that he wasn’t hung up on racial bal­ance, in­stead fo­cus­ing on com­mon hu­man­ity.

“The three great­est peo­ple in my life were white, OK,” he said. “My high school coach, my high school su­per­in­ten­dent and my men­tor in Man­has­set, Long Is­land.”

Mr. Level at­tended the meet­ing with Mr. Brown and Mr. Lewis, as did Na­tional Di­ver­sity Coali­tion CEO Pas­tor Dar­rell Scott.

“It’s not a smoke and mir­rors — that’s for sure,” said Mr. Lev­ell. “Dur­ing the cam­paign, for Don­ald Trump to call out, ‘What do you have to lose?’ — there’s just no way he’s not go­ing to put a tremen­dous amount of em­pha­sis on that par­tic­u­lar area.”

He was re­fer­ring to Mr. Trump’s ap­peal to black vot­ers dur­ing the cam­paign, ar­gu­ing that he should be given a chance in the White House be­cause blacks and other mi­nori­ties had lit­tle to show for the decades of loyal vot­ing for Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

The pres­i­dent-elect’s crit­ics, Mr. Lev­ell said, would not be sat­is­fied re­gard­less of how many black or His­panic men and women were nom­i­nated for top jobs.

“If we had five black ap­pointees, they’d be up­set that we don’t have seven or nine or 10,” he said. “So I think, at the end of the day, it’s not a sit­u­a­tion of try­ing to ful­fill the me­dia’s de­sire to have to fill these agen­cies with X amount of blacks, X amount of His­pan­ics. He’s truly stay­ing on course to find those with the best abil­ity who have an open mind and heart for all cul­tures that want to serve.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kellyanne Con­way is the only woman among Don­ald Trump’s se­nior ad­vis­ers. The pres­i­dent-elect is fac­ing crit­i­cism for his mostly white Cabi­net picks.

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