If Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano actually becomes Secretary of Homeland Security, as President-elect Obama seems to desire… well, we could do worse. The first DHS secretary, Tom Ridge, struck me (I only met him twice) as a smart guy who really didn't understand his portfolio and was being driven slowly mad by the blame accrued for the agency's sloppy organization and stupid proposals. Second-and-current Secretary Michael Chertoff as been nowhere near as bad as we had reason to expect. Yes, he presided over Hurricane Katrina. But that seems to have been another victim of the inherent bureaucratic nightmare of DHS.
I think history has already forgotten Battlin' Bernie Kerik, the laughably corrupt and mobbed-up cop whom Rudy Giuliani commended to George W. Bush as a great replacement for Ridge. Kerik's nomination caught fire like styrofoam in a microwave, and we as a nation got the first clue that Giuliani had been replaced at some point in 2001-2004 by a strange, bald cyborg that needed to recharge batteries by making inopportune phone calls to its "wife."
Anyway, the worst idea proferred by Chertoff has been the national ID card, the slow decline and sputter-out of which I wrote about earlier this year. One of the governors who helped nail down the coffin lid on REAL ID was… Janet Napolitano.
On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a measure, House Bill 2677, barring Arizona's compliance with the Real ID program. In so doing, she called it an unfunded federal mandate that would stick states such as Arizona with a multibillion-dollar bill for the cost to develop and implement the series of new fraud-proof identification cards.
In a letter explaining her support for HB 2677, Napolitano cited a White House estimate that Real ID would cost at least $4 billion to implement. But thus far, she said, the federal government has only appropriated $90 million to help Arizona and other states offset those costs.
"My support of the Real ID Act is, and has always been, contingent upon adequate federal funding," Napolitano wrote Tuesday. "Absent that, the Real ID Act becomes just another unfunded federal mandate."
The implication is that Napolitano would favor a national ID if it could be funded. What's the likelihood of it being funded soon? Not very high. So Napolitano seems, first and foremost, like an effective manager who understands immigration policy and has been a bulwark against the crab barrel of restrictionist crazies in her state. Not the worst pick Obama could make.