Monday, April 27, 2009


From Chuck Todd and his colleagues at MSNBC's First Read:

If you hadn't realized it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano might have the toughest public relations job in Washington these days. Already, she has found herself on the frontlines of some very tricky issues. First, it was border security and the Mexican drug war; then it was the infamous memo about the rise of right-wing hate groups that her department wrote; and now it's swine flu....

You'll probably say it doesn't matter, but I wonder if Todd et al. realize just how hated Napolitano is among the GOP base right now. It's not just the hate-group report (anger over this on the right is virtually impossible to overstate) and the lack of seal-the-borders absolutism -- it's also the use of the term "man-caused disaster" as a synonym for "terrorist act," as well as her erroneous statement that 9/11 terrorists crossed into the U.S. from Canada (she was apparently confusing the 9/11 perpetrators with Ahmed Ressam, the would-be "millennium bomber"), which was part of her attempt to clarify an earlier statement that, with regard to security, the U.S. should treat the Mexican and Canadian borders equally

Somehow she's managing to hit the hottest of wingnut hot buttons repeatedly. You can imagine how the statement about equal treatment of the borders would infuriate Mexican-phobic right-wingers. "Man-caused disasters" offended wingers because of their primitive belief in the magic power of booga-booga words such as "terrorist" and "Islamofascist," repeated as often as humanly possible. And the hate-group memo, of course, fed wingers' bottomless sense of victimization.

I wonder if Team Obama understands this. Somebody had to be in charge of the administration's response to swine flu, and there weren't a lot of choices besides Napolitano. On the other hand, I can't help thinking that the Obamaites hope she'll handle this well, after which there'll be an impression of her among the public at large that utterly contradicts (and thus renders politically useless) the idea of her in the right's fever swamps.

I'm rooting for her. But meanwhile, she may actually top Obama himself (and the Clintons, and Ted Kennedy, and Pelosi and Reid and Barney Frank, and Jane Fonda) on the current hit parade right-wing Antichrists.

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