Is Secretary Napolitano Running for Secretary of State?

By David North on June 21, 2011
Clarification (7/1/11): Below I speculated that Ms. Napolitano wanted to be U.S. Secretary of State; in describing her other options I said that the incumbent Senator in her state, Jon Kyl (R - AZ), whose term is up in 2012, was “not in trouble” electorally there. That’s correct but what I failed to say is that he is not running for re-election. I have no idea whether Ms. Napolitano will seek that seat, but it looks like an uphill struggle for any Democrat.

Is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano running for Secretary of State?

I ask because one of my habits is to read the endless press releases from various parts of the Department of Homeland Security and many of them deal with the endless overseas travels of the secretary. Here is a sample, in this case washed through an American embassy.

Maybe she feels it is her duty to visit Hungary and the United Arab Emirates; she always has official business to transact when she is in New Zealand or in Australia. There are foreign officials to confer with in Italy and Saudi Arabia. And many matters of state to discuss in Mexico and India.

If you Google "Secretary Napolitano to visit" you will find a record of many, many trips, more to places in the States than outside the country, to be sure, but a great deal of foreign travel.

There are trips to the United Kingdom and to Canada, to France and to Germany and many more.

Secretary Napolitano, as a relatively young cabinet member (she is 54) might well be thinking about the next job, and history suggests that there are several possibilities.

As a lawyer, and former state attorney general, she might aspire (as Fred Vinson, once Secretary of the Treasury, did before her) to move from the Cabinet to the Supreme Court.

She might think about running for the U.S. Senate (as Clinton Anderson did from Truman's Department of Agriculture to the U.S. Senate from New Mexico.)

Or she might think about another Cabinet position (along the lines of Elliot Richardson and George Shultz).

And, of course, once upon a time (think Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) the president was routinely recruited from the Cabinet, but more recently Cabinet members aiming at the White House have had their difficulties (think Herbert Hoover and Henry Wallace.)

With the president, vice president, and attorney general all showing no signs of wanting to leave their offices, and with no vacancies on the Supreme Court in sight, the Napolitano's options seem limited to a run for the Senate in 2012, or my guess, seeking to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton has made it pretty clear that she is leaving at the end of Obama's current term in office.

As to the Senate, the incumbent up for re-election in 2012 is Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who seems to be in no trouble back home, while the secretary's own wishy-washy immigration policies would do her little good in a race with Kyl.

So that leaves the State Department, and getting to know the world's leaders – like the ones in Afghanistan and Japan – are good first steps along that path.

Secretary Napolitano's travels rarely seem to deal with immigration policy, they are more often focused on anti-terror activities or speeding the movement of the world's goods. In the India-related press release cited above, for instance, there is no indication that she talked about India's refusal to accept deportations of its own people a burgeoning problem; similarly, when she visits Mexico the press releases never indicate discussions of compulsory interior repatriation of illegal aliens from central and southern Mexico picked up at the border.

If Obama is re-elected, and if he chooses Janet Napolitano as his Secretary of State, you read it here first.