McCain, Napolitano shoot it out, rhetorically speaking, over US-Mexico border

September 22, 2010

OIL-RIG/LEAK

USA-SECURITY/When Arizonans John McCain and Janet Napolitano started arguing over border security in the Senate on Wednesday, it sounded briefly like the pair could be heading for a modern day shootout at the O.K. Corral.

But it ended in a Mexican stand-off instead, with each cow poke flanked by an imaginary posse of sympathetic sheriffs.

The trouble started when McCain, a Republican senator, got his chance to ask questions at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, a former Democratic governor of Arizona, was a testifying witness in discussions that had been all about Islamist militancy up to then.

But McCain turned the conversation sharply toward the southwest to ask about security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What in the world is going on here?” an irritated McCain asked after suggesting that Napolitano had lost her sensitivity to the plight of border communities facing cross-border crime and violence since joining the Obama administration.

Napolitano denied she had changed her position.

Then came an argument over whether security at the border had improved, with Napolitano arguing that more security resources were now in the region and still more on their way and McCain countering with descriptions of home invasions and other disturbing problems related to illegal immigration and drug trafficking. USA-IMMIGRATION/ARIZONA

“They don’t have the same security that people do in other parts of our country … in the view of my citizens, the ones I represent, they have seen actually not any improvement. They have seen conditions worse,” he said.

Napolitano responded: “All I can do is say, look, I measure what we’re doing by the results and by the numbers. And what should be going up is going up, what should be going down, is going down.”

Then McCain suggested they settle matters by asking local sheriffs, confident that the law men he knew would “tell you, they have not seen improvements.”

Napolitano shot back that she knew a sheriff or two who would tell a different story. “Let’s get them all up here,” she said. “Let’s get them all up here.”

At that point, committee chairman Joe Lieberman emerged with a white flag: “Yes. All right. Thank you, both. Let’s go to Senator Brown.  He can bring some sheriffs from Massachusetts.”

Photo Credits: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Napolitano and McCain); Reuters/Stringer (Border Fence Between Arizona and Mexico); Reuters/John Russell (Border fence in Nogales, Arizona)

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