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Does The Commerce Job Have To Go To A Latino?

I see from Jonathan Martin that Xavier Becerra--rumored to be under consideration as Bill Richardson's replacement as Commerce Secretary--says he isn't interested in the job. Which is good, I think, because this notion that Obama has to replace Richardson with a Latino seems to me to be very problematic--and pretty much anathema to the whole way he's gone about filling his cabinet.

Unlike Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush, Obama has avoided the sort of racial and ethnic bean-counting that's typified--not to mention harmed (Janet Reno, anyone?)--the last two administrations. So much so that when Obama does break new ground with his appointments--like Eric Holder as the first African-American attorney general and Elena Kagan as the first female solicitor general--the historic nature of these appointments goes largely unremarked upon, or at the very least isn't the headline. This is partly because Obama's own history-making election tends to overshadow everything else, but it's also because he's made no statements about his cabinet "looking like America" that prime people to immediately look at the ethnicity or gender of his appointments and assess them solely on those grounds.

If Obama now goes ahead and picks a Latino to replace Richardson at Commerce, I'm afraid that person's ethnicity will be viewed as the person's primary qualification for the job. And while I'm not saying qualified Latinos shouldn't be considered for the Commerce job, I'm almost surprised that groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are being so ham-fisted in their efforts to make Obama pick a Latino to replace Richardson. I think it would diminish the nominee--and the Commerce Department--if that became a "Latino seat" at the cabinet table.

--Jason Zengerle