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I wanted to share a quick thought about Arizona's Janet Napolitano's nomination as Director of Homeland Security.  What I really think we're seeing here is Barack Obama at his most farseeing and strategic.   This week, we learned that John McCain plans to run for re-election in 2010.  By tapping Napolitano, Obama has probably neutralized the only real threat to McCain's hopes for a fifth Senate term.  Why is this smart?  Because a soothed, magnanimous-feeling McCain would be a tremendous asset for Obama's climate change/energy agenda.  Obama, as Rahm Emanuel put it, will "throw long and deep" on health care reform and climate change/energy legislation (Hallelujah!).   Now get this: McCain and some guy named Joe Lieberman introduced the Senate's first ever climate bill in 2003.  Climate change appeals to McCain's  Teddy Roosevelt complex - McCain calls it "a national security issue."  So Obama is pursuing an ego-stroking strategy with McCain like's Lieberman strategy: votes over revenge.  

Despite his embarrassing presidential campaign,  McCain still commands real respect with the public, the media, and (hopefully) his Senate colleagues on the climate change issue. Ezra Klein has  a great take on Obama's Lieberman strategy too.  Remember: even if Al Franken and Jim Martin win and give the Democrats 60 Senate seats and a filibuster-proof majority, any monumental legislative initiative like Obama's energy agenda MUST have REAL bipartisan support to ensure its acceptance by the public and its long-term success and viability (that's why Pelosi sensibly demanded 100 Republican votes on the bailout bill).   I think that history - and the progressive blogosphere - will vindicate Obama's "Olive Branch" strategy with McCain and Lieberman  when Congress passes the Climate and Energy Bill and the Health Care Reform Bill.  History might even tack on "The Great" before those pieces of legislation, like the Great Reform Act of 1832 in Britain.  It will be fun to see how it all turns out.  

Oh, and I do think Napolitano's a solid choice - her leadership gets high marks, she seems tough as nails, and her experience with the immigration crisis as AZ Attorney General and governor seems quite relevant.  Nonetheless, I had my heard set on an NYPD guy.  New York's finest are the probably the most innovative, experienced, and savvy counter-terrorism practitioners in America - but hopefully Raymond G. Kelly or Michael Sheehan will be helping her bring some order to the current DHS chaos with Janet Napolitano as their boss.  

Update: Chris Orr just made pretty much the same pointas me in a blog entry he just posted at TNR - although he makes his point in a more staid, grounded, less gushy, and better written way than mine.  

It occurred to me yesterday that, while the primary reason for Barack Obama to intervene on Joe Lieberman's behalf was clear enough--he wants to keep that vote on his side--a corollary benefit was that it serves as a kid of peace offering to John McCain, a sign that there are no hard feelings and that Obama is serious about working with the "other" side. McCain is never going to be the leader of the congressional opposition to Obama, after all, so his best bet to remain relevant is probably to refashion himself again as a moderate Republican who can work with Democrats--a role he seems to prefer to to partisan diehard in any case. Assuming he's on the list of Republicans with at least occasionally "gettable" votes on Obama's priorities (along with Snowe, Collins, etc.) what better way to get him (and in some cases, perhaps even Lindsey Graham, too?) than to use his pal Joe as a goodwill ambassador?

The news that Obama may have chosen Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to run the Department of Homeland Security struck me similarly. Obviously, the main reason for Obama's choice (if the reports are accurate) is that he likes and trusts Napolitano--one of his early, steadfast supporters--and thinks she would do a good job. But, again, if a secondary priority is wooing McCain, you could hardly think of a better way to do it. McCain said this week that he intends to run for reelection in 2010, and by far the largest obvious obstacle for him was Napolitano, whose term-limited tenure as governor is up the same year, whom many had speculated might challenge McCain for his seat, and who even led him in one (very) early poll. If you're John McCain, Obama's finding something else for Napolitano to do with her time probably looks like a pretty big favor.

--Christopher Orr

Originally posted to Decatur on Thu Nov 20, 2008 at 01:11 AM PST.

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