With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Is It True that President Bush Hasn't Hired Any Jews in His Cabinet?

An unsigned mass email criticizing George W. Bush alleges that unlike other recent presidents he has not appointed any Jews to his cabinet. Various blogs and media outlets have picked up the story and have further disseminated this allegation in accordance with their predispositions, thereby allowing the email to gain a wide audience.

The email, which features the Jewish record of appointments by 21 presidents, asks its readers to “consider the last two officeholders”:

BILL CLINTON appointed more Jews to his cabinet than all of the previous presidents put together.
GEORGE W. BUSH is the first President since Herbert Hoover who has no Jews in his cabinet at all.

The email is inaccurate. President Bush has named Jews to his cabinet. The email’s claim that there are no Jews in the United States cabinet ignores two important figures. The cabinet consists of 15 heads of federal executive departments. Two of these heads, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Energy Secretary Samuel Wright Bodman, are of Jewish descent.

It is true that President Bush did not appoint any Jews to his cabinet when he became president. Chertoff and Bodman received appointments later. Some critics of the administration, like journalist Sidney Zion, criticized Bush in 2001 for failing to initially appoint Jews to his cabinet:

There’ll be no Yiddish spoken in the Bush Cabinet — unless Colin Powell starts talking to himself. Dubya spells diversity with his picks. Three Blacks, a Cuban émigré and most recently, an Asian American Democrat and an Arab American Republican named Abraham.

But no Jews. And no questions from the allegedly Jewish-dominated media, no word from the Jews in Congress and no comment from the Jewish lobby.

Is this the silence of the lambs, or are American Jews so secure as to not give a damn about a Jew-free Cabinet?

Furthermore, Bush has appointed several Jews in high ranking positions who, even if they are not cabinet members, have a say in policy in every administration:

  • Lewis “Scooter” Libby - former Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney
  • Paul Wolfowitz - former Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Douglas Jay Feith - Former Under Secretary for Policy, Department of Defense
  • Dov S. Zakheim - Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Pentagon
  • Ari Fleischer - President Bush's former press secretary.
  • Kenneth Adelman - member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board
  • Robert Satloff - U.S. National Security Council Advisor
  • Elliott Abrams – Deputy National Security Council Advisor
  • Marc Grossman - Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Joshua Bolton - Director of Office of Management and Budget

In addtion, as the Jewish Post pointed out, the email selectively omitted three of the five most recent Republican Presidents: Nixon (president during the Yom Kippur War, whose secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was the highest-ranking Jew in the history of the US government), Ford and Reagan.

Matthew Berger’s article, "No Jews appointed to Bush's Cabinet? So what?" for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency states that there should be more concern with a cabinet member’s policy positions than with their “religious affiliation.” Another article of the same title by the Deputy National Security Council Advisor, Elliott Abrams, for Beliefnet.com, noted that the percentage of Jews in the United States perhaps signifies why there are so few in the cabinet. “Jews are only 2%, maybe 3, of the population,” he writes. “If by that standard, Jews deserve a Cabinet seat, so do Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus, I guess.”

According to Boycott Watch, an independent consumer advocacy organization that monitors boycott calls, the email appears to be well-researched--even though it isn't in fact--but concludes that it lacks credibility because it is unsigned. The group suggests the email may have been generated by a political organization to discredit the Bush administration.

What is most unusual about the email is that it attacks the Bush administration for allegedly excluding Jews. The more common criticism featured on the Internet has been that the Bush administration is dominated by Jews--or at least that it's foreign policy is directed by Jewish neo-cons, which plays on the typical anti-Semitic slander that Jews secretly rule the world. (See Jonathan Dresner, here, here , and here .)