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David Brooks: Obama Cabinet "Insular," Strong On The Harvard-Yale-Princeton Axis

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks discuss the week's top news with Judy Woodruff, including the insularity of Obama's cabinet nominees.

DAVID BROOKS: I think the one thing that strikes me with these picks, with John Kerry, with Chuck Hagel, is that, like Obama, they were among the least social of senators, that they have the similar profile, probably more intellectual than the average senator, but they were not Joe Bidens going around shaking everybody's hands. They were very solitary people.

And so we have gone from a team of rivals to a team of loners. And so they are very similar temperamentally.


JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: You were talking about a group of loners around the president. What do these choices and what we know so far about the president's White House staff and Cabinet say about the president, do you think?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it's not exactly great copy for us, because they are not the most exciting group, necessarily.

They are a group that has -- are people of integrity, every single one of them. There will be no scandals, including the new treasury secretary nominee, Jack Lew. So there will be no scandals. And there will be no stupidity. They're -- without exception, they're cautious, reliable, responsible and for the most part extremely experienced.

So I give them high marks for these sorts of things. I think the way you fault the president is insular. They are already very well known to him, have been for a long time. A lot of them have already been working for him and are probably exhausted by what has happened over the last four years.

Second, nobody from business. I really think it would have been useful to have somebody from the business community.

Third, still very strong on the Harvard-Yale-Princeton axis, very much the establishment of the Democratic -- central-left Democratic Party.

And so if you wanted some freshness, if you wanted somebody outside the box, somebody who would bring something new to an administration that is already tired because of what has happened, I don't think you see that. So you see caution, safety, intelligence, and experience. You don't see freshness.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, some conversation this week about lack of diversity so far in the president's picks. Should we be concerned about that?

DAVID BROOKS: You know, Ruth Marcus said he should have had some binders full of women.

I do think Ruth made the point that there is not a lot of -- that there's not a lot of diversity in just the world view you bring to the office.

If it's a bunch of white men, there is some loss there.

I do think Valerie Jarrett is still there, who is still a very important and much-not-talked about part of the administration and very powerful. So she does have a different demographic background.

I do think the lack of diversity is, as I say, more important in the lack of business experience and just the lack of spreading out across the country, diversity of background. I do think that is still a bit lacking.

But I don't think that is the fundamental problem. I think the fundamental problem is a little insularity.

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