The Associated Press reports that some black officials and independent analysts are concerned that there is a lack of minority representation in the Kerry campaign.
According to the Associated Press:
The Associated Press Article comes less than a week after Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King asked "Is Kerry's Campaign Colorblind?" King's question resulted from Carlos Watson's April 20, 2004 "The Inside Edge" column on CNN.com.
A lack of minority representation at the upper levels of John Kerry's presidential campaign threatens to weaken enthusiasm among black and Hispanic voters, two core constituencies, some Democrats and advocacy groups say.
Kerry's inner circle - the dozen or so advisers who participate in the campaign's most important decisions - is mostly white.
[. . .]
Some black officials and independent analysts expressed concerned about the campaign's lack of racial diversity. Campaign officials and the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus said the criticism was unfounded.
"I am concerned about diversity, but more importantly I am concerned about the experience in that diversity - senior policy people who know people from one end of the country to the other," said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., a caucus member.
He said the issue may dampen voter enthusiasm. "The senator should remedy this very quickly," Jackson said.
Added Ron Walters, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson Sr. and runs the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland: "There is a sense that Kerry's people don't get it."
Campaign officials dispute the criticism, saying too much of the focus has been on the influence of Shrum, Devine and other consultants.
According to King:
Watson's introductory paragraphs sum it up:
The Massachusetts senator, putative 2004 Democratic standard-bearer and soon-to-be leader of the party that most voting African Americans and other people of color call home, has an innermost circle of advisers that is practically as white as the driven snow. That slam against the Kerry high command appeared last week in "The Inside Edge" column of Carlos Watson on CNN.com.
Not wanting to believe that Kerry would assemble a team of insiders with faces that exclusively resembled Europe -- especially after proclaiming throughout the length and breadth of the land that he wants our workplaces to reflect the full face of America -- I called the Kerry campaign in Washington and got press spokesperson Stephanie Cutter on the phone.
I asked her: Is Carlos Watson's assertion true?
Watson, for the record, had written that, unlike former vice president Al Gore, who had an African American campaign manager, political director and finance director, Kerry has no person of color in his inner circle, including the campaign manager, campaign chairperson, media adviser, policy director, foreign policy adviser, general election manager, convention planner, national finance chairman and head of the vice presidential search team.
Cutter's answer to my question was truly Clintonesque. It all depends, she said, on what you mean by inner circle.
[. . .]
Let's be fair, you might argue. Doesn't Kerry have a right to surround himself with close friends and top assistants who click with him? Of course. But is it too much to expect that the Democratic Party's top liberal, the candidate who cries that he has "fought for civil rights and equal opportunity for every American my whole life," who brags about his efforts to "enhance diversity," and whose message is inclusiveness, would in fact have a presidential campaign inner circle that is reflective of the diversity of his party and the country? And if elected, will Kerry govern that way?
While Democrats have long claimed to be the party of greater inclusiveness, this year President Bush may argue that his administration is more diverse at senior levels than John Kerry's would be.
Seizing on the nation's diversity -- the country is almost one-third non-white -- Bush has appointed African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and women to senior and non-stereotypical roles: Secretary of State, national security adviser, Transportation Secretary, White House Counsel.
I can imagine the hullabaloo in the press if President Bush had failed to appoint such a diverse group of advisors and Kerry did have a diverse cadre of campaign advisors.
Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters , has also blogged about Kerry's diversity failure and posts that if the Kerry campaign was a corporate boardroom instead of a Democratic presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson would demand a plan to fill key roles with people of color.
UPDATE: The New York Times has picked up the Kerry campaign lacks diversity meme. The Times reports that last week, more than a dozen minority elected officials and political strategists expressed concern about the lack of diversity in Kerry's inner circle:
According to the Times the lack of diversity meme started with a newspaper article in which Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, identified five white men as Kerry's closest advisers, and an announcement of new staff members in which only a handful of the 30 staffers were black and Hispanic.
"The reality is that we're entering May and the Kerry campaign has no message out there to the Hispanic community nor has there been any inkling of any reach-out effort in any state to the Hispanic electorate, at least with any perceivable sustainable strategy in mind," Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus, said in an e-mail message to party leaders provided by a recipient who insisted on anonymity. "It is no secret that the word of mouth in the Beltway and beyond is not that he does not get it, it is that he does not care."
Separately, in a letter addressed to Mr. Kerry, Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza, denounced the "remarkable and unacceptable absence of Latinos in your campaign."
"Relegating all of your minority staff to the important but limited role of outreach only reinforces perceptions that your campaign views Hispanics as a voting constituency to be mobilized, but not as experts to be consulted in shaping policy," wrote Mr. Yzaguirre, whose group is among the oldest, largest and most influential representing Hispanics.
While Mr. Kerry, whose home state, Massachusetts, is 7 percent Hispanic and 5 percent black, has active support from black members of Congress, some veteran African-American leaders have struggled to find a foothold in his campaign. Even some black officials who called a reporter to offer their perspective at the campaign's behest said Mr. Kerry had work to do.
"He is generally surrounded by white folks, and sure that concerns me, sure," said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.
After weeks of masquerading as a party behind its standard bearer, the Democrats are beginning to act like Democrats.
"If there would have been a senior person at that table they would have said, `Don't even put out that press release until you can put some Hispanics on it,' " Armando Gutierrez, a New Mexico media consultant, said of the first release. Of the second, he said, "It's so pigeon-holed, it just sounds patronizing and condescending."
Julie Anne Fidler at Pardon My English has posted an entry about this issue getting it just about right:
Kerry is deliberately overlooking qualified Blacks who could efficiently run his campaign, then that’s another crime of equal or greater depth. But as much as I disdain John Kerry, I doubt that is the case.
And I think I’d have more respect for him if he stepped up to the mic and said, “If I find Blacks and Hispanics who are fully qualified to run this election, I will hire them as needed. Otherwise, I’m happy with my staff and don’t believe they should be judged negatively for being white.”