Seneca: Latino Rumblings in the Capitol on Eve of Inauguration

January 9th, 2009 · 15 Comments

The Richardson retreat from the Commerce Secretary nomination has left the Latinos as a whole dispirited and confused as to just how vital they may be to the new Administration after this Cabinet nomination stumble. Politico this week reported that new life has been breathed into the Latino advocacy groups to have other prominent and nationally known Latinos be considered to replace Governor Richardson, who is widely viewed as the only true national political Latino celebrity. In the mix supposedly being considered includes: Rep. Xavier Becerra (who turned down the USTR); Gilbert Casellas, a stellar Veep at Dell Computer (would be the first Puerto Rican on the Cabinet); George Muñoz, Texas-born Chicagoan who held office in the Windy City before moving to Washington when President Clinton appointed him Assistant Secretary of Treasury and CFO and then went on to be named President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in the latter part of the Clinton period. Subsequently, he set up his own consulting firm in the Washington area. He is widely acclaimed for having acquitted himself as a first class executive. He is board member of Marriott International and Altria; another possibility mentioned was businesswoman, Linda Alvarado. Other publications have mentioned private sector heavies like Kodak CEO Antonio Perez and Hector Ruiz, CEO of AMD, as possible candidates.

The buzz in the Mexican press is that Frederico Peña will be named US Ambassador to Mexico. Peña, another Texas-born achiever, was formerly mayor of Denver and occupied two cabinet positions in the Clinton Administration: Energy and Transportation. Perhaps that is why he has dropped from sight and receded to the background during this transition period: he already had secured his hueso. Peña certainly has the stature which pleases the Mexicans; now they appear to wonder how good is his Spanish speaking ability.

Lastly, one disconcerting note:  increasingly there are sotto voce comments about the divisiveness in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It is commented that one California Latino Congressman is actively seeking to torpedo his fellow Congresswoman, Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. In fact, it is reported that he has gone as far as seeking support among the Texas Latino delegation to help scuttle the nomination. If this is true, it will only serve to demonstrate the immaturity, unprofessionalism, pettiness and certainly the lack of unity among the Latino political leadership. This ugly and deplorable incident would only serve to convince outsiders that we Latinos are not ready for prime time. Admittedly, the California Latino (Mexican-American) delegation appears to have this chronic problem. Among the Texas, New Mexico, New York, and the Arizona Latino Congressional delegations, this type of behavior has happily not been detected. Besides California, only Florida has experienced such vindictiveness among its Latino (Cuban-American) Congressional delegation. It manifested itself with a smattering of jealousy and resentment. This was most apparent when HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, reportedly tapped by Karl Rove, ran successfully in the GOP primaries some years ago for the Senate. Both Washington DC and Florida were riven with gossip about how the Diaz-Balart Congressional brothers did not support Martinez in the primary and seriously wanted Mel defeated; much animosity was detected. If this behavior persists or reoccurs, it will weaken and badly tarnish the National Latino/Hispanic political leadership. Plainly, it would render the Latino presence at the national level as ineffective and unimportant. The challenge is for the Latino community to foster and develop some semblance of adult supervision for such behavior.

H/T to for the Richardson cartoon

Tags: Bill Richardson · Congressional Hispanic Caucus · diversity · Federico Peña · Rep. Hilda Solis · Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart · Rep. Mario Diaz Balart · Rep. Xavier Becerra · Sen. Mel Martinez · Seneca

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ruben Botello // Jan 9, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Uniting behind marranos, vendidos and tapados is not what La Raza needs to do; ever! None of the above self-serving “Latinos” represent the best interests of La Raza so why should we care if Obama appoints anyone of them or not?

  • 2 BettyM // Jan 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    There is a wonderful article in the LA Times about Hilda Solis – she has the background and talent to be Secretary of Labor. She certainly is ready to lead at the national level!!!

  • 3 Michaelr // Jan 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Ruben Botello has a point. The vast majority of Latino politicians at the Federal level are utterly worthless public servants. And the biggest problem with all of them is that they don’t see themselves as public servants to be held accountable for their actions, but rather monarchs with a touch of local telenovela celebrity entitled to your tax dollars. And that’s why they can never accomplish anything of substantial merit, and are therefore more or less prostitutes of Corporate America, or bagman for various industries. But what Ruben Botello fails to see is the political perception of uniting rivals for the singular purpose. Some of these Obama cabinet choices will not last one year. I can guarantee you Hillary Clinton’s ego and political baggage is going to bump heads with most of the career diplomats now enforcing U.S. policy abroad. Barack Obama’s embracement of Latinos for his cabinet is mostly a gesture of thanks for the support he received. He knows the political limitations of most Latino politicians at the Federal level. Obama needs only to look at NCLR and MALDEF’s values and priorities to see how public service organizations can be grossly mismanaged and internally fleeced.

  • 4 Anna // Jan 9, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    What a ridiculous post. Does your self -loathing know no bounds? Are you even Latino? I doubt it.

    There are many qualified Latinos who can serve in the Cabinet. For some reason you’ve limited your view to people you’ve heard of in the media. The transition team can find Latinos who will last four years or more if that’s what they truly want.

    I really doubt that with the crisis we’re in that they’re just passing out Cabinet positions as a way of saying thank you, without any regard to capability. Get real.

  • 5 DoctorH // Jan 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    And that Latino politician who is seeking to torpedo his fellow Congressman is probably Joe Baca- D from the 43rd California Congressional District. Don’t say you’re not surprised. Since Joe Baca couldn’t get his youngest daughter a signing gig at the Inauguration Ball, he’s lashing out and he’s taking no prisoners. Of course Joe Baca has more serious political problems brewing than just his youngest daughter signing. Should I mention Countrywide, New Century, and Ameriquest Mortgage Corp? And so many other irregularities that have to do with public money, and how he allocates it, and to whom. You know who were talking about Working Joe.

    I don’t know what planet this Anna is from, but constant acts of denial will never help you move forward. Henry Cisneros and Federico Pena are two former Latino Mayors of major U.S. cities who didn’t do irreparable damage to the infrastructure and vibrancy of their cities. But if you look at incorporated cities in Southern California with an exclusive Latino leadership, (Huntington Park, Santa Ana, and Baldwin Park) there is constant political scandal involving misuse of public funds, a regression of public services, and abuses of power. The pettiness of politicians, especially in these cases is actually publicly flaunted, much to the chagrin of so many of its local citizens. Seneca is right in stating that the California Latino political delegations all seem to have a chronic problem with unity, pettiness, and professionalism. Joe Baca is a prime example of this, along with Loretta Sanchez, and Antonio Villaraigosa. And as long as Latinos continue to support a candidate based exclusively on their last name and not by their works, we’re never going to create opportunities for ourselves.

  • 6 Reyfeo // Jan 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Well said Dr H!

  • 7 dfdeportation // Jan 10, 2009 at 10:14 am

  • 8 theKaiser // Jan 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Seneca echoes my sentiments exactly. Where is the Latino leadership that the Latino political community deserves? Why aren’t Latino politicians emulating Hilda Solis, or Raul Grijalva? Is flaunting public theft, corruption, and selling public office an active part of the Latino political DNA…thanks Seneca for stating the obvious and bringing this to the forum.

  • 9 india blanca // Jan 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    well said Kaiser…Seneca is stating the precise information we need to know and ponder …in order to change and get ahead…as any community, we Latinos deserve to be represented by honorable men and women who look out for the best interest of our society, of our children, of our future…it is embarrasing to think we are out there under mining of our…as my father use to say…la cuña para que apriete debe ser de la misma madera….as Seneca put it so brilliantly: “we are not ready for prime time”…and at the rate we are going never will be.

  • 10 YolandaR // Jan 10, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Now you know how I felt many times about my black elected officials–state and federal. The majority albeit a few are crabs in a barrel…oops I forgot to say useless crabs in a barrel trying to get to the top and step on each other without remorse or concern for anyone. Sadly all of the sentiments you’ve expressed about this matter are the same as my colleagues and I discuss.

  • 11 Michaelr // Jan 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I have been appalled for nearly three decades at the lack of accountability of federal, state, and local politicians. Our federal, state, and local governments could easily streamline and operate on half the taxes, tariffs, and fees they forcibly remove from our pockets, but the vast majority of federal, state, and local politicians are so self-serving their own goals, while supposedly performing public service is to further enrich themselves. Thirty years ago this was a federal and state crime. However, since the Reagan Administration, the Me, Myself, and I mentality has taken root in government service and public service has only become the token phase. No political group emphasis this Me, Myself, and I mentality more than the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and its incompetent self-serving group of members. They more or less set the standard that allows other Latino political, non-profit and civil rights organizations to operate in similar fashion. This obsession with image awards, gala dinners, and clique like associations displays all the public theft accompanying this hypocritical and self-serving behavior. Stop giving your hard-earned dollars to these inept organizations, and hold them accountable for their actions and behavior. Thank you Seneca for saying this.

  • 12 Jesus (Hay-soos) // Jan 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    *tongue planted firmly in cheek*

    Well Michaelr,

    I surmise you have never been to one of those “hispanic” gala dinners you refer to. They are quite a hoot!

    I just attended one last November and it is nice to be served a “free” meal every once in a while, all the while observing all the wanna-bees thinking they actually matter. It is even better that turning your head while driving to see how bad the crash was on the side of the road.

    *tongue back in normal position*

    I guess we also have to realize that most of these Latino “leaders” that claim to represent us now grew up or lived through the “ME” generation of the late eighties as Michaelr pointed out. Though it doesn’t help us any, like a social scientist, we can better understand why most of these clowns act the way they do.

  • 13 lusonotlatino // Jan 19, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Maybe it would make more sense to analyze Latino politics as just politics rather than some form of social/racial/cultural solidarity.

    African-Americans insisted on the solidarity route for the last 30 years — post Civil Rights Act — and it got them consensus leaders who were demagogues and had no chance at national election (viz Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan).

    The key attribute should be talent and intelligence — in short, merit — rather than anything else. If one Latino thinks another lacks merit, than s/he has an obligation to oppose them. To do otherwise will confine Latinos to a well-populated, comfortable backwater.

  • 14 webmaster // Jan 19, 2009 at 7:53 am


    Jesse Jackson and Farrakhan have never held elected office from what I understand. I guess Jackson was a “shadow senator” for DC pushing for DC statehood, but we know that the district is still not a state…

    When I talk to many African-Americans, I sense that they feel that both Jackson and Farrakhan are not effective. Those men don’t really threaten the status quo. They merely get press time for spouting off offensive and sometimes cruel statements.

    At one time, Jesse Jackson could bring attention to an injustice, but I think that he isn’t taken as seriously.

    I do completely agree with your last statement here though:

    “The key attribute should be talent and intelligence — in short, merit — rather than anything else. If one Latino thinks another lacks merit, than s/he has an obligation to oppose them. To do otherwise will confine Latinos to a well-populated, comfortable backwater.”

  • 15 Seneca on Obama Administration’s Latin Foreign Policy Woes // Nov 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    […] House and Hillary Clinton was ensconced as Secretary of State after having successfully blocked Bill Richardson from the job. Admittedly, Gov. Richardson was in the midst of a brewing scandal in New Mexico. […]

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