A couple of months back, Sean Hannity invited me on his nightly panel on a special show that was dedicated to ten of the more problematic figures in the administration — Van Jones, Kevin Jennings, Carol Browner, John Holdren, and some others. (Napolitano was not egregious enough to be included.) Sean pressed me on whether this one or that one should be fired, and I just shrugged my shoulders. The suggestion (not by Sean, but in a lot of the public debate) had been that these people had not been properly vetted. My reaction was that they had been extensively vetted — the “czars,” like Jones, were made czars rather than cabinet nominations precisely because they were the people President Obama wanted but he knew they’d never get through a confirmation hearing. Sure, you could fire those ten, but the same guy who picked them would be picking their replacements.
I never thought we should have created a Department of Homeland Security. People’s memories are short. The original idea behind DHS was to solve “the Wall” problem — the impediments to intelligence-sharing that were making the FBI, our domestic intelligence service, ineffective. But while DHS was being debated and built, the FBI and the intelligence community furiously called on their allies on Capitol Hill and protected their turf. By the time DHS formally came into being, they made sure it had no intelligence mission — in fact, it had no real clear mission at all except to be the unwieldy home of a huge agglomeration of federal agencies. Basically, we moved the deck chairs around on the Titanic but did nothing to improve homeland security.
Napolitano is an apt representation of Obama-style detachment from national security: She doesn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from; she doesn’t know illegal immigration is a criminal offense; she won’t utter the word “terror” (it’s a “man-caused disaster,” just like, say, a forest fire); she thinks the real terrorists are “right-wing extremists” aided and abetted by our soldiers returning home from their missions; when a jihadist at Fort Hood massacres more people than were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she won’t call it terrorism and worries mostly about racist blow-back against innocent Muslims; she doesn’t see any indications of a larger terrorist conspiracy even after a captured — er, arrested — terrorist tells agents he was groomed for the airplane operation by al Qaeda in Yemen; she thinks the “system worked” on Christmas when every element of it failed; and even her walk-back on the “system worked” comment — i.e., that it worked after the fact because all the planes then in the air were notified to take extra precautions “within 90 minutes” of the attack — is pathetic. You may recall that on 9/11, the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:16 a.m.; the Pentagon was struck at 9:37 a.m., and, thanks to the heroic passengers of Flight 93, the last plane went down a little after 10 a.m. — about 20 minutes from its target in Washington. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.
When DHS came into being, a good friend of mine put it perfectly: “We already have a Department of Homeland Security and its address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is there, not at DHS, that the problem resides. The President has in place exactly the team he wants. To clamor for Napolitano’s firing when she is just carrying out the boss’s program is to shift the blame from where it belongs.