President Trump has nominated John Kelly’s chief of staff, Kirstjen Nielsen, to be the next Homeland Security secretary, but the nomination has already hit some snags from both sides of the aisle. The most curious aspect of the debate is highlighted in this article from USA Today. They focus on one Q&A session during Nielsen’s confirmation hearings where she was asked about the border wall. Her answer was, to put it mildly, less than inspiring.
Kirstjen Nielsen, an attorney with cyber- and homeland security experience, told senators during her confirmation hearing that the border should be fortified instead with a mix of personnel, technology and physicial fencing.
Her stand mirrors that of former DHS secretary — and her current boss — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Nielsen was Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS and followed him to the White House, where she is principal deputy chief of staff.
“The president has stated as have predecessors at DHS certainly something that I share: There is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea,” she said.
I’m not going to pretend that Nielsen is the only person in Washington with questions about the border wall. Far from it, in fact. And I honestly don’t know if the political will exists on the hill (to say nothing of the required resources) to push through a “big, beautiful wall” that runs from sea to shining
sea Gulf of Mexico. But that’s not really the point here, is it? Nielsen is being nominated to serve in the cabinet of the President of the United States and she should be entering that office (if confirmed) ready to stand up for the President’s agenda. You may not get everything you want, but you don’t begin a negotiation by ceding ground to the opponent.
It’s equally disappointing to hear so many ostensibly conservative members of the Republican party parroting the language of the Democrats on an issue which should be such a no-brainer in terms of policy. There will be huge challenges involved in building and maintaining a wall of that length. Getting it done in a single presidential term would likely prove impossible even if we had bipartisan consensus on the issue. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Yes, some of the terrain that the border runs through is brutal and construction in those areas will be challenging. But if we seriously want to have a full barrier capable of largely shutting down illegal immigration of all forms, such a wall is needed. As long as there are openings where someone can walk across, criminals will find a way to do it. Working over a number of administrations, the entire border actually could be secured eventually, including the addition of extra personnel, electronic monitoring and the other features Neilsen mentioned. And if you don’t think that a border wall can work, go read what happened in Hungary when they build one.
Rather than focusing all my fire on Neilsen (who is, I am positive, more than qualified otherwise), it’s worth taking a moment to look at the dog and pony show which her confirmation turned into thanks to the Democrats. She’s being considered for a spot in Homeland Security, so questions about the wall are clearly appropriate. But what else did her interrogators want to know about? Her views on climate change.
She is expected to win confirmation easily, though she did provide some answers Wednesday that took some senators aback. For example on climate change, Nielsen declined to say she believes humans caused it.
“I do absolutely believe that the climate is changing,” she said. “I’m not prepared to determine causation.”
Nielsen later pledged that she would review the science.
What exactly does the Secretary of Homeland Security have to do with climate change? Did you also ask her about her views on abortion and the Export-Import Bank? Surely you found time to get her take on the pressing issue of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
Come on, guys. Grill her about matters related to her potential next job, obviously. But all the rest of this window dressing is unrelated and only serves as an opportunity for Democrats to do some grandstanding and create a few headlines. Let’s get on with the actual business at hand, shall we?