Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 18, 2009


Al Kamen, Washington Post - President Obama, with his constant chatter about change and shaking things up and new ways of doing things, had rattled some traditionalists in this area -- especially those lacking a proper level of cynicism.

But a review of the early demographic data of Obama's first 56 selections for Senate-confirmed top jobs in the departments and agencies shows a marked tendency to choose old, white guys from the East Coast with credentials from elite universities.

In other words, not to worry. The Establishment remains firmly established. The Beltway is king.

In fact, half of Obama's first 56 senior-level picks are from the D.C. area and an additional 18 percent are from elsewhere on the East Coast. New York has four appointees, Massachusetts two, and there's one each from Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Virginia, according to a count by our colleague Sarah Cohen.

As would be expected, Illinois is well represented -- home to four appointees. Five come from California. No other state has more than two people in the mix. Overall, it appears more than half, 55 percent, are retreads from the Clinton administration.

Thirty-eight of the 56 appointees (68 percent) are men. (But white men, representing 46 percent of all picks, fall short of a majority.)

Nearly 70 percent of these appointees are white, 7 percent are of Asian or Pacific island descent, 16 percent are African American, and 7 percent are Latino.

Nearly 60 percent of the first batch of nominees -- 33 of them -- are affiliated with an elite school, having attended (either at the undergraduate or the graduate level) or taught at an Ivy League college or an institution such as MIT or Stanford. Harvard is on the résumé of a quarter (14) of Obama's picks.

There's good news for the older set. Sixty-six percent of those who have been picked are in their 50s and 60s, and 2 percent (also known as Leon Panetta) are in their 70s.

By way of comparison on a few of these statistics, 39 of Bill Clinton's first 48 nominees (81 percent) were white and seven (15 percent) were African American; 75 percent were men. Of George W. Bush's 28 first nominees, 22 were white (79 percent) and only 14 percent were women, according to data compiled by the Presidential Transition Project at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.


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