Janet Napolitano for...President?

Kate Hicks

2/4/2013 4:18:00 PM - Kate Hicks

I know, I know. It is way too early to be talking about 2016, and believe me when I say I'm still recovering from 2012. But...

The Washington Post's She the People blog asserts that current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has suggested she's interested in running for the top job in four years, joining a list that includes Martin O'Malley, Deval Patrick, Hillary Clinton, and of course, Joe Biden. If, as she has maintained, Hillary really isn't interested in the job, says STP's Karen Tumulty, then Napolitano is a viable female candidate, and a formidable one at that.

It is hard to imagine the presidential field without a woman contender, and here’s one to keep your eye on: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano is quietly making it known that she is considering the race, and there is reason to take her seriously.

Before coming to Washington, Napolitano was a highly regarded and very popular governor in Arizona, a state not known as a hospitable one for Democrats. In 2005, Time Magazine named her one of the nation’s five best governors, noting: “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.” [...]

Napolitano is a sharp and savvy politician, and her decision to remain in the Obama administration for a second term is a telling one. Immigration overhaul may well be an opportunity to put herself at the forefront of an issue–and a constituency–that represent the future of the Democratic party. Particularly if Clinton doesn’t run, it’s a decent bet that she will be on the debate stage in 2016.

It's a little bit out of left field (no pun intended regarding ideology), but it's not entirely unfathomable. The article makes the point that she would have an uphill climb, coming from a non-governing Cabinet position, but she's hardly the most polarizing or scandal-ridden advisor Obama's had by his side. On the other hand, it's worth noting that Napolitano's career as Homeland Secretary has had its own episodes of intrigue: recall, the lawsuit filed in August of last year against the department, alleging that Napolitano’s handpicked staffers created a “frat-house” atmosphere, unfriendly to men.

The suit was filed by James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of New York City investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hayes’ suit says that when it became clear he was going to be removed from his post, he “felt that he was being targeted because of his gender.”

He charges that in April and May 2009, ICE chief of staff Barr “removed the entire contents of the offices of three male employees, including nameplates, computers and telephones, to the men’s bathroom at ICE headquarters.”

“Barr also created a frat-house type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees,” court papers say.

Regardless of whether the charges are founded, it seems as though she hasn't made too many friends among her subordinates, and would have to contend with unflattering portrayals of her time as the top anti-terror official in the country. What's more, the very public battle about the TSA scanners displaying very private body parts (that have since been scrapped anyway) doesn't exactly scream "competency."

Of course, there's no real sign indicating that she's laying the groundwork for such a run -- certainly nothing like the overt gestures Joe Biden has made in recent months -- and there's more than enough time for her to decide. But perhaps it's worth tucking away and taking a closer look at what she's up to as Obama's second term gets underway.