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?