Two Points for Janet Napolitano


A ferocious wind storm came through Washington yesterday, the sort of storm that makes you feel like a bit player in the opening scene of a bad John Cusack climate change movie. We  weathered the storm in Politics & Prose, the official bookstore of Goldblog, as well as of all thinking people in northwest Washington. The lights stayed on through much of the storm, but then flickered out for a while. We continued to shop in the semi-dark, but I was distracted by the obvious presence of Secret Service agents loitering in the fiction section. I scanned the room, but didn't have to, because right next to me was Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, also shopping in the dark.
"Uh-oh," she said. "Metaphor alert."

"What exactly is the metaphor?" I asked. She laughed: "Homeland Security secretary doesn't even carry a flashlight."

"That's a good headline," I said. "But don't you have people to carry flashlights for you?"

"That's right!" she said, calling over a member of her detail. "Don't we have a flashlight in the car?" Immediately the Secret Service began the hunt for a flashlight.

We talked for a moment about the hurricane-that-wasn't in the Gulf, and I introduced Napolitano to the two junior Goldblogs who accompanied me, to whom she was charming and friendly, as ever. She is, I think, the funniest and most personable cabinet secretary I've met (though it's pretty awesome when former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao ties a load on and goes blue). This personal charm doesn't affect the way I view her performance, though she's actually doing a very good job, especially when taking into account the fact that the poor woman is in charge of, among other things, the TSA. And she gets extra points on this blog for self-deprecating humor, and, especially, for buying books on a Sunday afternoon at an independent bookstore. How many cabinet secretaries do you think actually read anything besides briefing books?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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