Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 20, 2008

NAPOLITANO TO DHS.... There were widespread hopes that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) would find a role in the Obama administration, so the overnight news was encouraging.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security's myriad functions.

Napolitano brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State's first female attorney general. One of the nation's most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006.

Reports about Napolitano's DHS gig have been confirmed by the Washington Post and CNN, with the cable network, I believe, the first to break the news.

Napolitano has long been considered a rising star in Democratic politics, and was named one of America's five best governors by Time a few years ago.

There are, of course, political considerations. With Napolitano joining Obama in Washington, Democrats will lose one governorship -- Arizona is one of only a handful states without a lieutenant governor, so Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer will succeed Napolitano.

Also, Napolitano was considered a leading challenger to John McCain in 2010. It's not impossible to launch Senate campaigns from the cabinet -- Florida's Mel Martinez pulled it off a few years ago -- but it's certainly far more difficult.

But most importantly, there's the DHS job itself. Since its creation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration's management of the newest cabinet agency has been a terrible mess. (A few years ago, House Democrats released a report noting that DHS set 33 clear goals for itself -- and failed to meet all of them.) Obama needed a strong, competent manager to clean up the department, bring some competence to the agency, and reverse some of the dysfunction that has burdened DHS for years.

Given her record, Napolitano is a terrific choice.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Definitely a country-over-politics choice- and what could be more refreshing after the last 8 years?

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on November 20, 2008 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Like a lot of other Arizonans, I was hoping Obama would name Janet for Attorney General, but she'd be great as Director of Homeland (can we lose that name, please?) Security too. It's a fact that both the DOJ and DHS are in need of her managerial skills and no-nonsense nature.

Posted by: azportsider on November 20, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Should she do well at Fatherland Security, could this position her for a run at the White House after Obama?

Posted by: Breezeblock on November 20, 2008 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Napolitano would do a great job, but I'm 100% opposed to losing a Democratic governor if she's going to be replaced by a Republican. There have to be other qualified Dems out there who wouldn't reduce our numbers in the Senate or in statehouses.

On second thought, maybe appointing Harry Reid to the position would be addition by subtraction in the Senate. Obviously he'd be completely useless at Homeland Security, but since Obama and the Senate Dems already signaled that competence in Homeland Security affairs isn't important, why not Harry? Perhaps then we could get a Majority Leader who isn't the dictionary definition of "flaccid."

Posted by: bluestatedon on November 20, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

By "and failed to meet all of them" do you mean "and failed to meet any of them?"

Posted by: Eric on November 20, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

"DHS set 33 clear goals for itself -- and failed to meet all of them." Do you mean to say "any of them"?

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on November 20, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

DHS was Cheney's idea to consolidate power.
Napolitano and Obama would do well to break it up again. The departments can still communicate, but the missions aren't necessarily of a kind. Specialization delivered superior results prior to the mashup and I don't see a reason to keep it other than inertia.

FEMA and Border Patrol? Are they REALLY peas in a pod?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 20, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Since she's from AZ, she hopefully will realize how some order states have been totally ruined by illegal immigration. In fact, AZ, by upholding the law (that businesses cannot employ them) has taken the lead.

Posted by: clem2 on November 20, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

"appoint Reid" - Problem is Guv Jim Gibbons is a RepuG - Could appoint a RepuG pit boss from one of the Ensign family casinos.

But, as to immigration problems in Arizona, are they from the South or from Mississippi transplants such as Double Talk?

Funny thing about the useage of "Repug" - The San Francisco Chronicle online, sfgate, will not accept the word in any online comment. Tough filter.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 20, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting that a potential adversary to John McCain's re-election in 2010 has been taken off the boards days after McCain met with Obama. Perhaps Barack did this not only because Napolitano was right for the job, but because he won some promises from John to help some of his policy initiatives on Capitol Hill. (Despite the debates, there are many things they do agree on.)

Posted by: Vincent on November 20, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

How the hell does Obama not select Gary Hart for this job? Hart was the smarter half of Hart-Rudman, the anti-terror report ignored by Bush-Cheney in January of 2001--which led to 9/11. Hart's by far the better choice, and won't rob us of a Gov seat or Senate seat in 2010.

Posted by: folkbum on November 20, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: LINDA A on November 20, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'd prefer to see DHS eliminated and begun anew. The Bushies have made such a sprawling incompetent mess of it that blowing it up and starting over would probably be faster and cheaper, while still providing superior security.

Posted by: JoeW on November 20, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Gary Hart, wow, hadn't even thought of him, but he probably would be good. There are a few other good people, who supported Obama during the primaries, who I would like to see in the administration--Sebelius, Richardson and McCaskill are three--I guess John Kerry will be the next Foreign Relations chair, not a bad consolation prize if Clinton gets SOS.
I like Duvall Patrick too, but heard he might be a Supreme Court nominee.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 20, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Gov. Napolitano imitated Gov. Richardson and sent the state's national guard to the border with Mexico for political reasons. There was no crisis that required the militarization of a border with a friendly neighbor, but Napolitano understands the prejudices of the electorate and has no inhibition preventing her from exploiting them. My first reaction, besides disgust, was to predict Napolitano was aiming for the Homeland Security post if a Democract should be elected president in 2008.

Gov. Napolitano is a close childhood friend of Cheney's aid and legal gymnast, Addington. Expect little reform of the DHS.

Posted by: Brojo on November 20, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that Napolitano is a great choice. I think Hart would have done well, too, but I think there IS some political consideration here.

Napolitano's credentials will be burnished here, giving her additional foreign policy cred for a future run as Senator. Her support for Obama earned the position as has her strong record of managerial competence and her capacity for navigating a pragmatic course on immigration issues.

Hart's commission work remains a solid blueprint for a comprehensive approach to national security. But Hart's been out of the elective politics loop for quite a long time and he's best utilized doing what he's been doing for years: research and recommend.

I don't think the temporary replacement of Napolitano as Governor is such a big negative as Democrats are well positioned in AZ, a state I liken to VA in its trend. And when building a cabinet, gaining an effective, competent, Latino-friendly woman is a win-win-win, for Obama and more importantly, for the country.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on November 20, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

i think she should simply blow the whole joint up, move agencies like fema back under congressional control, and go back to being govenor again....or run against mccain....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on November 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

You're funny, clem2. Actually Arizona has been ruined by LEGAL "immigrants" from states like Ohio.
(What other country, other than Stalin's USSR, would do something as totally fucking stupid as moving millions of people into the middle of a desert?) And guess what? When the water finally runs out down there they can all die of thirst as far as we're concerned- they're not getting a drop of our water.

After that, the Mexicans can have it back.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on November 20, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's no sure thing that McCain could win re-election in 2010, or even survive a strong primary challenge at this stage. Even if Napolitano doesn't run, my guess is that another competent Democratic candidate might still have a pretty good shot at his seat, especially if Obama has really turned things around by then.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on November 20, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Californians ruined Arizona.

Posted by: Brojo on November 20, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight. Arizona is the MOST porous border in the Nation. Napolitano is the Governor of Arizona. Oh, now I get it, she can not control her own borders within her State so now we should appoint her to do this job on the Federal level? Yeah, that makes perfect sense for CHANGE....

Posted by: jimmy james on November 20, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Napolitano looks like a qualified and competent choice for Secretary of the DHS, which will be a very nice change from the previous holders of that position.

It is definitely possible that Napolitano could be a candidate for President in 2016. She wil be 59 years old then so age would not be an issue. Getting some national exposure and some national security experience would be good preperation for that.

I have no idea if that is a consideration for the Obama, but if it were, the next step would be for her to replace Biden on the 2012 ticket. If that doesn't happen, it won't rule out her running in 2016 but would be a sign that Obama isn't grooming her to be his replacement.

The biggest problem with putting Gary Hart in as head of DHS is that the place is such a disaster now that it needs someone with a lot of energy to clean up the mess. At 72 years old, Gary Hart may not be the best choice for that.

Posted by: tanstaafl on November 20, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK



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