Lost in the dramatic disaster unfolding on Wall Street and the brazen hypocrisy of the Hillary Clinton nomination is President-elect Obama’s double signal that the war on terror is now over. His appointment of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security signals that the Department will once again focus on southern border immigration issues rather than on fighting terrorism.
He could have selected a Rudy Giuliani or a Louis Free or a Ray Kelly anyone with real life experience in battling terrorists. Instead he chose a governor with no knowledge of the subject whose obvious credential is her proximity to the border. The Department of Homeland Security is a polyglot agency which includes immigration enforcement (the old INS) among its many missions. It is also charged with fighting drugs (the old DEA), and battling terrorism. By appointing someone who knows nothing about terrorism but everything about immigration, Obama has signaled the lack of priority he will give to domestic efforts to keep us safe.
Imagine if President George W. Bush had named the governor of Arizona as his Homeland Security director when the post was created in the aftermath of 9/11! The nation would have howled in protest. But now that nobody is focused on terrorism (except the terrorists who still want to strike at us), Obama has felt free to bury the task of battling terrorism in the bureaucracy dedicated to policing the Mexican border.
Just as troubling is Obama’s appointment of Eric Holder as his Attorney General. While criticism of the nomination has focused, justifiably, on his sell-out of the public interest by recommending the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, it is his approval of commutations for the FALN – the Puerto Rican terrorists – that should raise red flags. Before 9/11, when we were not hyper-sensitive to terrorism, Holder did Hillary Clinton’s bidding in approving the pardon of those who bombed Fraunces Tavern in New York City, killing four people and injuring fifty others. Facing a run for Senate in New York State, with its sizable Puerto Rican population, Hillary was anxious to deliver a signal of her empathy with the desires of New York’s Hispanics. Bill, eager to please, sought Justice Department approval for the commutations. Even though the prisoners themselves had not asked for commutation (two refused to accept it), Holder approved the action and cleared the way for a pre-election gift to New York’s Puerto Rican community.
If these two appointments presage Obama’s approach to the war on terror, we are going to be in deep trouble, indeed. There is not a hawk in the bunch.
Add to the mix that this is the first President/Secretary of State combo that has no combined experience in foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson appointed William Jennings Bryan in 1912, and we face real danger. Past presidents with no foreign experience have had the wisdom to appoint secretaries of state with significant experience in international relations. Truman had Byrnes and General Marshall. Johnson had Dean Rusk. Carter had Cyrus Vance. Reagan had Al Haig and George Schultz. Clinton had Warren Christopher and Madeline Albright. Each reached out to supplement their lack of experience, but not Obama. The appointment of Hillary Clinton does nothing to remedy Obama’s inexperience and the appointments of Holder and Napolitano indicate that terrorism in general is a low priority for the upcoming Administration.