This bizarre tweet at about 10 am ET today from Reuters was the first hint that the Secretary of Homeland Security was even looking to parachute out of the Obama administration:
Government source says U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano set to resign today (Friday).@Reuters
— Reuters Insider (@ReutersInsider) July 12, 2013
Where does a former Obama administration official go after retirement? Academia:
Janet Napolitano, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona, is being named as the next president of the University of California system, in an unusual choice that brings a national-level politician to a position usually held by an academic. Her appointment also means the 10-campus system will be headed by a woman for the first time in its 145-year history.
Napolitano’s nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said focused on her early as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education.
She has? How — by having TSA grope students? Napolitano has spent the last four-plus years in national security. Prior to that, she governed Arizona, not California, for six years, and that came after four years as Attorney General. Before that she was a US Attorney, and Anita Hill’s lawyer. Her last interest in education came at her own graduation from University of Virginia School of Law.
What makes her the ideal candidate to run the UC system? Er … connections:
UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences –- which include helping to lead responses to hurricanes and tornadoes and overseeing some anti-terrorism measures — will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas.
“While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university,” Sherry Lansing, the regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, said in a statement being released Friday. “She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility — not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”
In other words, Napolitano is cashing in — but instead of doing so in the private sector, she’s doing so in the public sector. Hey, at least they’re honest about it.
This sets up a big headache for the Obama administration. They will have to choose a replacement soon, and one that can navigate a Senate confirmation hearing while avoiding topics like the NSA and the lack of interest in enforcing the border-security provisions of the Senate’s immigration-reform bill. The White House would be smart to look for a border-state replacement for Napolitano, perhaps a Senator who could get a breezy confirmation. Tom Udall, another former AG in New Mexico, might not be a bad choice in terms of the politics for Barack Obama, although it could put the seat at risk two years earlier than necessary.
Update: National Journal’s Matt Berman offers a few more potential candidates:
In the run-up to the 2012 election, National Journalnamed New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Bill Bratton, and retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen as possible successors for Napolitano at Homeland Security if she were to step down.
Allen might get the easiest ride of the three.