Responding to criticism of cabinet picks that have been male-heavy, White House mouthpiece Jay Carney said that while the White House likes the concept of diversity in their pool of potential candidates, ultimately they decide based on who the best candidate is:
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN: I know you touched on this a little bit yesterday, but is diversity a consideration as the President goes through this process?
REPORTER: Check your binder for that. (Laughter.)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE: I can say that, as I did yesterday, that the President values diversity, believes it’s important because it enhances the quality of the pool of potential nominees for positions across the administration. He believes that by looking broadly for candidates for offices that he ups the chances that he’ll find the very best person for the job. And I think that the diversity of his administration both at the Cabinet level and here at the White House and elsewhere reflects a process that was designed to allow him to find the very best candidates. And he thinks that diversity enhances the process itself, the policy process, because it sort of increases the likelihood of a broader discussion potentially.
But the goal in the end is to find the very best individuals for these specific positions. And he feels he has done that with Secretary Hagel, with John Brennan, with Senator Kerry — I think I said “Secretary Hagel” — getting ahead of myself — Senator Hagel. And that will be what guides him as he makes further decisions.
I actually agree with Carney. The right approach to diversity is to include all potential candidates, regardless of things like race or gender, and then you pick the best candidate. Again, regardless of things like race or gender.
Unfortunately, while the White House is able to apply that standard for themselves, government policies the White House supports often don’t let those of us out here in the real world make those decisions. As a very local case-in-point, my local county commission recently was forced to reject the lowest-offer bid they had accepted for some infrastructure work because the skin color and/or gender of the company’s owner didn’t make muster under federal law:
Commissioners voted to rescind funding from one construction firm and award it to the second-lowest bidder for a project on County Road 24. Martin Construction of Dickinson was the company with the lowest bid, but lost the project because the Department of Transportation rejected the bid on the grounds of its failing to meet the federal “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise” requirements. Kern & Tabery Inc., of Wadena, Minn., was the second lowest bidder and won the project.
“DBEs are for-profit small business concerns where socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51% interest and also control management and daily business operations,” reads the DOT website. “African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific and Subcontinent Asian Americans, and women are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged.”
The operative phrase there is “presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged.” The taxpayers of my county (and state/federal taxpayers too) are being forced to pay more than they would otherwise because our county commissioners can’t simply pick what they consider to be the best bid. They must, by federal law, consider skin color and gender.
The Ward County Commission didn’t exclude anyone from the pool of bids by skin color or gender, as evidenced by the fact that the 2nd best bid came from a so-called DBE. But that doesn’t matter.
So when I hear the Obama administration say that they’re not being discriminatory because they consider all candidates, and pick the best based on their calculation of merit, I believe them. I just wish they’d let the rest of us do the same.