WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn rejected Wednesday the possibility of serving in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as transportation secretary, saying he wants instead to help Obama show that an African American can lead the nation.
Clyburn was responding to a letter sent to Obama last week by U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, recommending the Columbia Democrat’s nomination as U.S. Department of Transportation chief.
Joe Madison, host of “Madison in the Morning” on SiriusXM Radio’s Urban View channel, asked Clyburn about the Transportation post at the end of a nine-minute interview.
“I have no interest in leaving the Congress,” Clyburn responded. “I am going to stay here because there are two things I’d rather make sure happen. No. 1, I’m going to help this president remove all these myths people have that an African American cannot run their country.”
Clyburn then added: “And No. 2, I want to demonstrate to those people in my state and other states as well that people of color can be good Congress people.”
Madison said Urban View is “an African-American talk network” and his “audience is predominantly African American.”
Clyburn has brought up race before in connection with Obama. Asked in May 2011 about the president’s re-election prospects, Clyburn responded “the president’s problems are in large measure because of his skin color.”
Two days after Fudge sent the Feb. 4 letter recommending Clyburn, the veteran lawmaker didn’t rule out serving in Obama’s Cabinet and overseeing the distribution of billions of dollars in federal highway money.
Some black, Hispanic and female lawmakers have criticized Obama for failing, they say, to include enough minority members and women among his top advisers.
Obama’s prominent picks for his second-term Cabinet have been white men: former U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state; former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who is awaiting a Senate confirmation vote to become defense secretary; and White House chief of staff Jack Lew as treasury secretary.
Clyburn, starting his 11th term, is the highest-ranking African-American in the House. He holds a post that was created for him called House assistant Democratic leader, behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.