Feathered Bastard

Gov. Ed Rendell on Janet "No Life" Napolitano and the Assumptions That Follow

CNN's Campbell Brown "Cutting Through the Bull" concerning Janet. Well, not completely...

So the blogging and talk radio world is all over Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for his off-mic comment about our Governor Janet Napolitano being tapped for Homeland Security Secretary, and why she's a solid pick, in his estimation. As revealed last night by CNN's Campbell Brown, Rendell's observation is an interesting one, as much for what he says as what he doesn't say.

"Janet's perfect for that job," said Rendell. "Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it."

Now Campbell Brown, who has always been my favorite Muppet character, by the way, went off on how this was a sexist comment and that it was full of assumptions about how women are treated versus men, and how single people get the short end of the stick work-wise, yadda-yadda-yadda. Rendell has since explained that he meant no offense, and that he would have said the same thing about Janet if she were a man.

I happen to think Napolitano's a disastrous choice for that position, mainly because I'm fiercely pro-immigrant, and Napolitano has never spoken out about the racial profiling and civil rights abuses that have transpired and continue to transpire in this state at the hands of ICE, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's MCSO, County Attorney Andrew Thomas' office, and so on. Whether or not she has a family or a life is the least of it.

Yet, Rendell's observation that Napolitano has "no life" and "no family," has an underlying assumption to it that should be familiar to anyone who's witnessed Napolitano's political rise in Sand Land. It could only have been clearer had he also said, "And she likes to wear checked sport coats and guest coach a women's pro-basketball team." This particular implication of Rendell's remarks was only slightly more subtle than that of Kristen Wiig's mannish impersonation of Napolitano on a recent broadcast of Saturday Night Live.

Janet's sexuality is an issue, I believe, but not for the reasons enumerated by conservative pundit Debbie Schlussel. I don't know that she could be blackmailed over it, as Schlussel supposes. Actually, I think it speaks more to Napolitano's personal hypocrisy and cold-blooded careerism, as a Democratic pol who's had to chart a course for herself in a largely right-wing state.

Of course, there's no way to know for certain if Napolitano is in the closet or not. She has denied it in the past, and I suspect that if she is closeted, she will remain so indefinitely, as she probably wants to come back to Arizona and run for U.S. Senate someday. But you can expect the Rendell-esque comments and guessing to continue when it comes to Napolitano. And Wiig's parody of her, may in fact become a running one. Kinda like Janet Reno was for Will Farrell back in the day.


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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons