In a bit political symmetry, John McCain put out a statement today, endorsing the Democratic governor of his home state of Arizona, Janet Napolitano to be Barack Obama’s head of the Department of Homeland Security.
The statement said that McCain commended the announcement, and called the governor to congratulate her. Governor Napolitano’s experience as the former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Arizona’s Attorney General and as Governor warrants her rapid confirmation by the Senate and I hope she is quickly confirmed,” McCain said. He also added that he is looking forward to working with her during the confirmation process.
As McCain’s statement points out, Napolitano has a wealth of experience prosecuting cases, which provides some clues into what could be the changing role Obama sees for Homeland Security. Currently, Homeland Security is a department without a clear jurisdiction. It is more of figurehead organization without any real power or authority over the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department. It doesn’t have any budgetary authority, and technically its role is to prevent and respond to domestic emergencies.
Its primary mission was originally supposed to be the prevention and the response to a domestic terrorist attack, but most of the department’s duties have been focused on responses to natural disasters through FEMA, which was absorbed into Homeland Security. The Department also absorbed the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Since is the Department itself was created through the merging of 22 different agencies, it has been rough sailing in terms of leadership and function.
One of the things that Democrats have long sought to do is remove FEMA from Homeland Security and return to being a standalone agency. I think the selection of Napolitano is a signal that Obama is looking to give Homeland Security more leadership, direction, and a clear mission. Being from a border state, Napolitano understands the immigration issue. She has nice blend of experiences that should fit this position well.
There is a growing trend in these Obama appointments that might not bode well for those who want see Hillary Clinton become Secretary of State. Thus far, Obama has chosen people who played a critical role in his campaign. Napolitano was frequent campaign surrogate. Daschle and Holder both played critical roles on the campaign, and Emanuel is fellow Chicago politician. All of these people have ties to Obama, and experience in their fields. These are two qualities that Hillary Clinton lacks. Napolitano is a solid choice, and it is easy to see why John McCain would endorse her.