Trump’s failure to appoint Hispanic Cabinet members is no minor issue
President Donald Trump deserves praise for vowing in his inaugural address to make America great “for all our people,” but his Cabinet will be the least diverse in several decades, and doesn’t include a single Hispanic.
You might think this is irrelevant, but it’s not. As anyone who has ever worked in the White House will tell you, proximity is power.
Presidents — like most human beings — are influenced by the people who surround them. Look at who they appoint for top government jobs, and you will get a fair idea of how they will rule.
In Trump’s case, that might be even more true. He will be the first president in U.S. history with zero experience in government or in the armed forces, and — despite his ridiculous campaign claim that “I know more than the generals” — has shown very little knowledge about world affairs.
Because of his ignorance about the day-to-day intricacies of governing, he will be more reliant on his Cabinet than any of his predecessors. And yet, Trump has assembled the whitest, oldest and wealthiest cabinet in recent memory.
Somehow, Trump couldn’t — or wouldn’t — find one single member of the largest U.S. minority group who was qualified for a Cabinet job. There are about 55 million Latinos in the United States who account for about 17 percent of the population.
Trump will lead the first U.S. Cabinet since 1989 without any Hispanic members. Former President Barack Obama had four Hispanic Cabinet members in his second term. Former President George W. Bush had three Hispanic Cabinet members when he started his government, including his attorney general and secretary of commerce.
In addition, Trump’s 15-seat Cabinet has only one African-American member, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate Ben Carson.
Trump’s most important Cabinet positions, which are subject to Senate confirmation, will be occupied by four white males: Rex Tillerson has been nominated for secretary of state, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has been tapped for secretary of defense, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is the pick for attorney general and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin was appointed secretary of the treasury.
The absence of Hispanics in Trump’s cabinet is especially worrying because the new president built his presidential campaign around anti-Mexico tirades that most Hispanics considered insulting.
He started his campaign on June 16, 2016, with the claim that most undocumented Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, and vowing to build a border wall with Mexico and have Mexico pay for it.
Later in the campaign, he tried to disqualify U.S.-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel from handling a case against Trump University because “he’s a Mexican,” and re-tweeted an attack on former Republican candidate Jeb Bush for the fact that the former Florida governor “speaks Mexican.”
It’s no coincidence that a record low number of Latinos — 18 percent — voted for Trump, according to a Latino Decisions poll, although a questionable exit poll put the number at 29 percent.
As I’m writing this, Politico.com reported that South Florida journalist Helen Aguirre Ferre, a former Miami Herald colleague who until last week served as Hispanic spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, has been appointed director of media affairs and special assistant to the president in the White House.
Although it’s not clear whether her job will give her as much access to the president as those of the White House communications director or the White House secretary, she will be working with top officials. There are several other Latino members of Trump’s transition team who will be tapped by the new administration, Trump aides say.
My opinion: I was glad to hear Trump say in his inaugural ceremony that he was taking “an oath of allegiance to all Americans” and that “there is no room for prejudice” in his vision of the United States.
But I worry that, surrounded by a cabal of wealthy white males, and without any Hispanics or African Americans in his inner circle, the Trump administration will be very alienated from this country’s biggest minorities. His were nice words, with zero action.