Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Napolitano: recommendations split on threat color system

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she is reviewing recommendations on the color-coded threat alert system and experts are evenly split over its usefulness.

She said the committee of experts that made the recommendations to her were "equally divided, 50-50" on whether the color-coded threat alert system developed after the Sept. 11 attacks was useful. It currently stands at "yellow" for elevated.

One recommendation the experts gave her is when the code becomes elevated, after a certain number of days it ought to automatically revert back to the lower level unless a decision is made to intentionally leave it higher.

"The problem is once you raise the level it is virtually impossible to reduce it for a number of political and public affairs reasons. So there would be an automatic revert once it were raised after a certain number of days," she said at a Reuters Washington Summit. "I think that kind of recommendation makes a lot of sense."

Any decision could impact airlines, and Napolitano said the Department of Transportation and other agencies would have their say after she makes her recommendation.

Stealth U.S. trips over holiday include Napolitano to Pakistan

So Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t the only one making a stealth trip to an overseas hot spot over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Turns out Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ended her European visit with an unannounced seven-hour stop in Pakistan on Friday and discussed border security and other issues with officials including the president, prime minister, and interior minister.SPAIN/

Of course, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have any role in securing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so it was more of a discussion about her experience in dealing with U.S.-Mexican border security issues.

Napolitano on court speculation: ‘I have a job’

OBAMA/Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has ended up on many media lists speculating about potential Supreme Court nominees,  says she is not looking for a new job.

At a news conference to introduce the new head of FEMA and talk about hurricane preparedness — the season starts June 1 — the former governor of Arizona was asked about the chatter that she may be a contender for the vacancy of retiring Justice David Souter.

“I have a job,” Napolitano said.

“And as you can tell from this press conference it’s a pretty big one,” she said to the reporters gathered in the FEMA press room. “I’m not looking for another job.”

The First Draft: Green shoots and budget talk

USA-OBAMA/After the Obama team’s big announcement on health care and an even bigger deficit, now comes the hard part — actually sitting down and figuring out how much it’s going to cost, and how to make it cost less. President Barack Obama’s first public appearance today is a round-table discussion with business leaders on cutting employer health care costs.

Later, behind closed doors at the White House, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Commanding General Raymond Odierno, the head of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Then the president meets with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, one day after Gates replaced the top U.S. Afghanistan commander.

In congressional action, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano faces questions about her department’s 2010 budget from both sides of Capitol Hill. Lisa Jackson, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency, also faces budget questioning from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

First Draft: CDC’s Besser does “The Full Ginsburg”

FLU/USA-CASESDr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been everywhere in the media over the last several days, talking about swine flu. His calm demeanor and practical advice — cover your cough, wash your hands — showed up on every major television network this morning. It seemed like he was live, simultaneously, on several of them.

In some Washington circles, this kind of media blitz is known as “The Full Ginsburg.”

For those with long memories, when sex was the biggest scandal in the U.S. capital, William H. Ginsburg had 15 minutes of fame as Monica Lewinsky’s attorney. He represented the former White House intern in 1998 when she was called to testify about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton. The case ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.

Obama’s limo is bigger

There is no contest. President Barack Obama got a bigger limousine than former President George W. Bush. It even comes with a nickname that growls, “The Beast.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday got a close look at the brand new Cadillac limo which first rolled out on the road on inauguration day to carry its special protected cargo — Obama and his wife — down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Parked in the Secret Service garage in front of Bush’s limo, which had been brand new for the former president’s inauguration in 2001, the new monster car clearly overpowered the older model.

The First Draft: Nomination hearings today

It’s a busy old day on Capitol Hill.

President-elect Barack Obama’s picks to head the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security and his nominees for attorney general and ambassador to the United Nations will be on Capitol Hill for their Senate nomination hearings.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Mary Schapiro as SEC head at 10 a.m. EST. At the same time, Obama’s nominee for Homeland Security, Gov. Janet Napolitano, will be quizzed at a separate hearing on her suitability for the job.

Eric Holder, Obama’s nominee for attorney-general, is expected to be questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in pardons granted by former President Bill Clinton, in particular the case of billionaire financier and fugitive Marc Rich.