The Corner

Should Napolitano Go?

Jim Geraghty has a long post sorta-kinda-almost defending Napolitano. I agree with almost everything he says. DHS is a mess and has been from the beginning. It’s almost ungovernable etc, etc. Read the whole post. But Jim concludes:

Should Napolitano go? Only if she gets replaced with a serious reformer, hell-bent on accountability and fearless about confrontation; otherwise, we’re replacing one longtime party stalwart giving rote speeches with another. I suppose it’s possible Obama could find a Giuliani or a Rhee for DHS, but I wouldn’t count on it.

While obviously I would love to see a serious reformer put in there, I think this is still wrong on a couple counts. First, I think Ramesh’s counter to those who say firing Napolitano would be merely “symbolic,” is exactly right. It would be symbolic! It would be symbolic of a new and welcome intolerance for unqualified hackery at DHS. Ramesh put it a bit more charitably:

The people who say that firing her would be a mistake because she is merely a symbol of deeper problems in our policies against terrorism are, I think, missing something important: Firing her would be a repudiation of what she symbolizes. I’m not sure who her replacement would be, but I do know that replacement would know how Napolitano lost her job.

In Washington, few things sends a clearer message than losing your job.

The symbolism would also work “up,” not just down. For Obama to fire Napolitano, he would have to come to grips with the fact that the appointee who most symbolizes his views on the War on Terror (law-enforcement issue, man-caused disasters, etc) created problems for him politically and substantively for the country.

Second, the process of finding Napolitano’s replacement would necessarily involve Congressional hearings and a serious debate about what is required in a DHS secretary. Even if Obama picked a hack — a Republican one or a Democratic one — that debate would be worthwhile, and it would hammer home the symbolism of the firing.

For the record, as I said on TV over the weekend, I think, for all practical purposes, it’s too late to fire Napolitano, at least in response to the Christmas bomber. Too much time has elapsed, the blame game has metastasized across Washington, and the “Napolitano rally” has done its job.

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