Are we setting our sights just a tad too low when we go all euphoric that a gay man is now the White House party planner?
I suppose any visibility is nice, but when the Obama administration still suffers from a dearth of openly gay men and women in senior White House policy positions (where is this administration’s Richard Socarides or Bob Hattoy or even David Mixner (former FOB)), I’m just not convinced that picking a gay man for a job that some would call stereotypically gay is much of a “historic choice“, especially when no one openly gay has been appointed to the Cabinet, yet they tried to appoint three Latinos (and God bless the Latinos, but aren’t we at least worth one Cabinet post to their three?).
We’ve had a lot of problems with the administration over the past two years because, in part, they don’t seem to have enough openly gay people in the most senior, serious, policy positions in the White House and the agencies. Are any top advisers to the President gay, any? – or the administration at large (again, where are the gay Cabinet secretaries?). There is a dearth of openly gay senior staff who can warn in advance that things like invoking incest and pedophilia while defending DOMA is a no-no. And I’m sorry, but OPM isn’t a cabinet post, and, again, it’s somewhat stereotypical to make the gay the office manager, albeit for a very big office. OPM is not State, or Defense, or even HUD.
Look at a recent Huff Post story in which the administration, and our groups, talked about the “very senior” jobs our folks were getting. Here’s the best they came up with:
Gay activists, among Obama’s strongest supporters, had hoped he would be the first to appoint an openly gay Cabinet secretary. While that hasn’t happened – yet – Obama did appoint the highest-ranking gay official ever when he named John Berry as director of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the nation’s 1.9 million federal workers.
Other prominent names include Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank. Obama also named Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender appointee, as a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department. And David Huebner, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, is the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history.
OPM. White House Council on Environmental Quality. EXIM. A senior technical adviser at Commerce. And Ambassador to NZ and Samoa.
All nice. All not exactly the pick of the Plum Book litter. I doubt any other minority community would be overjoyed that these were the best jobs their people got.
It’s not 1993. Simple visibility in any job isn’t going to cut. It’s no longer solely about quantity, it’s about quality too. It’s no longer enough to say you appointed more gays – now you have to appoint them to better positions than before. Clinton appointed gay ambassadors nearly twenty years ago. That’s no longer enough.
Look at the list for yourself – here’s the “best of” from the Victory Fund. It’s a nice list, but not terribly earth-shattering. For example, there are nine openly gay assistant secretaries at the agencies – decently senior positions. Only nine. And note the agencies: HUD, Commerce, HHS, Labor, Veterans affairs. There is one at Defense, which is finally a super serious agency, except guess what job he has – “Public affairs” – the softer of the Defense jobs, and, the more stereotypically gay one (Pete Williams anyone?). And there are no “deputy secretaries” on the list at all.
If the White House really wanted a historic choice for party planner they’d have picked a straight guy.