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Sheila Jackson Lee for DHS Secretary?

I have to admit, this was a shocker. For all of the names being bounced around for DHS Secretary, a couple have caught me by surprise, but none of them was as jaw dropping as the notice I received on Friday from a friend that said, “Thompson, Black Caucus endorse Jackson Lee for DHS post.”

That’s right. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

My first thought in seeing this posting from Ya’ll Politics was that this has to be a joke, or as another friend who sent me the same link said, “Is this an early submission to Security Debrief’s annual April Fools edition?”

Apparently, it is not a joke. For reasons that baffle any sense of reality, it is a serious gesture on the part of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to encourage President Obama to nominate Rep. Jackson Lee as a replacement for outgoing-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. In a July 24 letter to the President, CBC Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) detailed Rep. Jackson Lee’s tenure in Congress, calling her “a strong and honest ‘voice of reason.’”

I have heard Rep. Jackson Lee described by many people as many things, but the words “voice of reason” have never been among those descriptions.

Having watched her Congressional Committee performances for more than a dozen years, dealing with everything from NASA to homeland security issues, the words “wild card” may be the most accurate descriptor as you honest to God never know what she might say or do in a hearing, or for that matter, in any other setting. Her questioning of hearing witnesses of all stripes can at times be described as fierce and even ruthless – and those are on the good days.

Her treatment of staff though is the stuff of Capitol Hill legend. In a study released this past January by the Washington Times, Rep. Jackson Lee was discovered to have the highest staff turnover of any Member of Congress, thus earning her the title of “the Worst Boss on Capitol Hill.”

According to the Times report: “Each year, an average of half of Mrs. Jackson Lee’s staff quits, and one year, all but six of 23 staffers left.”

If you read through any of the stories about Rep. Jackson Lee’s staff treatment captured by the Daily Caller, the Houston Chronicle, or other outlets, the descriptions by former staff are blistering, if not painful to read. The word “cruel” seems to be an adequate descriptor in reading about her treatment of people.

While I confess to having never been personally berated by the nine-term congresswoman from Houston, I know enough of her former staffers (as well as former colleagues who have been hearing witnesses and had public and private discussions with her) to know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The personnel turnover rates and other descriptions don’t lie. If you treat people like crap, don’t expect them to say anything sweet about you, which is why I find the CBC’s public endorsement of her so absolutely unbelievable.

DHS has more than a dozen key/senior level vacancies, as well as the lowest morale of any federal department. Can someone explain to me how the person who was the top vote getter in the category of “Meanest Member of the House” would be the best person to turn the DHS ship around to better times?

If you think the turnover at DHS is high now, you could put speed cameras outside any building Rep. Jackson Lee entered as DHS Secretary and capture people absolutely shattering Usain Bolt’s records as they fled out the doors.

While the CBC is a serious organization with a distinguished past, they completely undermine their credibility when they put forward a letter and recommendation such as the one they addressed to President Obama in their July 24 letter.

Maybe it’s just a gesture that they are going through just to assuage her ego, but the truth is Sheila Jackson Lee would have about as much credibility as DHS Secretary as Jeffrey Dahmer and Hannibal Lecter would have as co-hosts for a cooking show on the Food Network. That distasteful scenario is certainly not reasonable or possible, and I can only hope and pray that others see her consideration for one of the toughest jobs in the world for what it really is – an unrealistic and unfunny joke.

DHS needs a leader to bring it together, not tear it apart.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More