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Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:09PM - 109 Views

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WASHINGTON — The top contenders for the big three jobs in President Barack Obama's second-term Cabinet are all white men, rekindling concerns about diversity in his inner circle.


Now that Susan Rice has withdrawn under pressure from consideration as the next secretary of state, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is the front-runner for the nation's top diplomatic post. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is Obama's favored candidate to run the Pentagon, and White House chief of staff Jack Lew is likely to be his next treasury secretary if he wants the job.


The boys network is alive and well, Democratic activist Donna Brazile wrote on Twitter after Rice withdrew. The war on qualified women continues here in DC.


Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a close friend of the president, dropped out of consideration for the State Department job Thursday. That followed months of withering criticism from Republicans over her initial comments about the attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya — criticism several female House Democrats said smacked of sexism and racism. Rice is black.


Her withdrawal reignited questions about gender diversity in the upper echelons of the administration, a concern that has nagged at the Obama White House for years. The questions grew so persistent early in Obama's first term that the president invited his upper-level female staffers to a dinner to get their input on how to shake his administration's boys club reputation.


Now, senior administration officials are considering whether a prominent woman should be named to a top Cabinet post in order to create gender balance, according to a person familiar with White House thinking. That person spoke only on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss internal White House deliberations.


Among those whose names have been mentioned within the administration, former Defense Department official Michele Flournoy is being considered to lead the Pentagon and Lael Brainard, Treasury's undersecretary of international affairs, has been cited as a contender for her agency's top job. Former California Rep. Jane Harman has been discussed as a candidate for director of the Central Intelligence Agency.


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