Feathered Bastard

Can Janet Napolitano Fail Upward to the Supreme Court?

Here we go again. With the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter, the buzz is that the White House wants to pick a non-judge female to become one of the nine. So of course this means some analysts with nothing but time on their mitts are suggesting that current Homeland Security honcho Janet Napolitano is on the list of possible appointees.

She sure ain't high on the list, certainly not higher than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor (a contender despite the fact she wears a black robe), or Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

But that hasn't prevented Nappy from keeping her name in the ring. When Chris Wallace grilled her about it on Fox News Sunday, the Napster did her best not to rule herself out. (Are you listening, Barack?)

"I've got my hands full with the flu right now, and I'm just going to stick with that," she told Wallace, who said she wasn't answering the question, a tactic Napolitano's perfected during her decades in public life.

"I think the president has many, many excellent choices before him," she replied, hopefully. "And that's his choice to make."

Napolitano, of course, would be a disastrous choice for the White House for a boatload of reasons, many of which I enumerated in a blog post in February when pundits like Jeffrey Toobin were suggesting her as a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This was when Ginsburg was being treated for cancer, and folks thought she might not recover. Toobin recently suggested Nappy again during a CNN interview. (Maybe they're palls from the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas scandal. Toobin wrote a book about it. And Nappy was Hill's legal beagle back then.)

"If Toobin knew anything about Nappy," I wrote in February, "he'd know she's a gutless, careerist cipher, who left Arizona with a billion dollar deficit, a rock-bottom ranking in education, and a legacy of hate and intolerance spearheaded by nativist pols such as state Senator Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom she never really took on during her six year tenure."

To be sure, the right would go ape if she's nominated. She incurred their wrath over that unclassified assessment on rightwing extremism, which DHS sent out to cops nationwide. And she's been prone to flubs in its wake. Personally, I think the DHS assessment was correct to warn America's local law enforcement providers that a new Timothy McVeigh may be lurking out there. Nonetheless, nominating Nappy to be a Supreme would be like thowing the Limbaugh-ites a hunk of raw meat. So I'd be surprised if it happened.

On the other hand, Nappy has a talent for failing upward. Despite her do-nothing approach to local politics, Arizona Dems slavishly worshipped her, and the populace in general awarded her with reelection. Never mind that she shortly thereafter fled the state, leaving it in dire economic straits. That's classic Nappy, putting her own self-interest above all others. And that's why you can never totally count her out.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons