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A “Rooney Rule” for ambassador openings


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Paul Mirengoff

August 19, 2017


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced yesterday that “every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate.” This is a version of the Rooney Rule used by the NFL to fill coaching vacancies. It’s named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Ironically, Rooney was U.S. ambassador to Ireland during the Obama administration. He gained that post the old-fashion way — by funneling money to the Obama campaign.

I agree with Roger Clegg that the hiring practice effectuated by the Rooney Rule is divisive, unfair, and an endorsement of just the sort of identity politics that we ought to have learned by now is poisonous. In addition, I think it’s illegal if it operates, as it often does, to exclude white candidates from consideration due to their race or, as it rarely does, to award a job to an African-American who wouldn’t otherwise have been selected.

To expand on the last point, in my experience with large employers the Rooney Rule type approach rarely benefits African-Americans. Most such employers are eager to promote well-qualified African-Americans. They identify strong candidates within their work force early on and cultivate them. They may also seek strong candidates externally, through recruiters. There is no little reason to believe that good minority candidates aren’t being considered for upper-level jobs due to their race.




Rex Tillerson embodies the titan of U.S. industry as squish. If President Trump hadn’t put him in the Cabinet, he would probably be resigning from some business council to protest the president declaring, correctly, that the antifa thugs share responsibility for the violence in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, we await Tillerson’s first significant accomplishment as Secretary of State. Imposing the Rooney Rule isn’t it.

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