It's still unclear how "crotch-bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled explosives onto Flight 253, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's first public statement on the failed attack — that "the system worked" — was clearly a mistake. Napolitano quickly walked that back, but not before critics from the left, right, and center pounced — some even calling for her to be fired. Given Napolitano's big gaffe, and the apparent security lapse in her TSA, should President Obama start looking for a new Homeland Security chief? (Watch a Fox report claiming Janet Napolitano is "unqualified" for her position)
Fire Napolitano, now: Napolitano's "annoying, maddening, and absurd" argument that "the system worked," says Jonah Goldberg in National Review, was "just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically." If the Obama White House wants to show it's serious about airplane security, it needs to "start by firing this patently unqualified hack."
Keep her — she's doing good work: Napolitano's "inconsequential three-word phrase" was admittedly "awkward," says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. But the real issue isn't word choice; it's competence, and "by fair standards," Napolitano is "the best secretary DHS has had in its relatively short history." Besides, "if awkward phrasing is grounds for removal from high-ranking federal office, George W. Bush never would have made it through his first year."
"Whether 'the system' worked"
Her response to this crisis was a bad sign: Finding the right words to reassure us that the skies are safe is part of Napolitano's job, says Karen Tumulty in Time, and her "boneheaded assertion that the 'system worked'" doesn't inspire confidence in her "instincts and reflexes in a crisis." With her credibility in tatters, "it only seems fair to ask: Does the Obama Administration really have the right person in this very important and sensitive job?"
Napolitano, 1; Bush, 8: We get it: "Napolitano said something exceedingly stupid," says Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic. "But here's the problem with criticism of Napolitano — she's been on the job for less than a year," while the Bush Administration had nearly eight to fix the pre-9/11 air-travel security holes. If we need to point fingers, "there are better scapegoats out there than Janet Napolitano."
"In defense of Janet Napolitano"
SEE THE WEEK'S LATEST COVERAGE OF FLIGHT 253:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- Extreme haunted houses: Inside Halloween's most terrifying new trend
- 10 things you need to know today: October 25, 2014
- Let us now praise Billy Joel
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Everything you need to know about the voter ID controversy
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Why the government should pay every American child an allowance
Subscribe to the Week