Napolitano Splits to the Coast

Having occupied one of the federal government’s most thankless and ill-defined jobs since 2009, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano resigned today to head up the University of California system. It’s pretty good timing for her; the UC system, which as the remaining crown jewel of a badly tarnished California educational system, already benefits from a robust private funding stream, and will now benefit more from the state’s dramatically improved fiscal situation.

It’s not easy to assess her leadership at DHS, that unwieldy conglomeration of 22 separate entities with 22 separate missions. Her reputation for quiet competence did not keep her from earning a particularly intense loathing from movement conservative types who will never forgive her for authorizing a study on the terrorism threat posed by right-wing extremists, who in their view are by definition patriots. Had she moved from DHS to the Justice Department or the Supreme Court, as was often rumored, her confirmation might have been difficult.

But she’s free to live a relatively normal life now, while the administration has to deal with a choice of successor that will be as difficult as the task of discerning DHS’s central mission. Do they pick a cop, a spy, a military type, or another pol, and if the last, do they scour the earth for an acceptable Republican? And will the Beltway Media choose to make Napolitano’s departure and replacement some sort of symbol of the impending failure of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, conveniently blaming it on Obama?

We’ll see soon enough.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.