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Nobody Likes Kirstjen Nielsen

As Trump has canned his DHS secretary, we see that she will not be missed.  Her record is terrible regardless of what side of the aisle you are on.

Yesterday, I wrote a very brief article on Nielsen’s departure from the Department of Homeland Security. 

Today, I will get into some of the details surrounding her departure, specifically, her record as a cabinet secretary.

Nielsen is an enigma. She is simultaneously hated by the left and the right. She represents everything wrong with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.  She is responsible for every inhumane procedure and she is responsible for every squishy policy implemented.

Her image changed during her tenure at DHS.  Yet the criticism remains.

When Nielsen was nominated, some on the right opposed her nomination for several reasons.

  • She opposed the wall.
  • She supported DACA.

When she was confirmed, the left took issue with her implementation of Trump’s policies.

  • She facilitated the child separation policy.
  • She routinely clashed with law makers regarding the seriousness of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
  • She routinely clashed with their characterization of the facts regarding the child separation policy.

What we end up with is an individual apathetic to the MAGA-agenda, stuck enforcing the president’s policies. The Trump administration was being led by individuals who probably didn’t vote for Trump and couldn’t care less about why voters elected Trump. Far from Trump hiring only the best people…

To be honest, I am not sure what to think about Nielsen. I wrote to my Senators asking them to oppose her nomination, yet her dedication to some aspects of Trump’s immigration agenda was admirable.  The role of a cabinet secretary is to advise the president and to carry out the president’s agenda.  Some advisers see their jobs as a way to circumvent the president and carry out their own policy goals.  I don’t think Nielsen was like that.  While her apathy didn’t turn into animus, a lack of animus doesn’t translate to competence.

Under her watch, the border crisis has gotten worse. As the end of March, she tweeted,  “The security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border is getting worse every day. I again ask Congress to act ASAP to give [the Department of Homeland Security] the authorities we need to protect children from the terrible journey, discourage illegal immigration, and secure our border.”

Yet even a year ago, there was talk that Secretary Nielsen was ineffective or was at least being painted that way by the Trump administration.  Axios reported then that she was viewed as a scapegoat for failing immigration policies. The bottom line: From when Nielsen was first nominated as secretary of homeland security, Trump had misgivings. I’ve learned that Trump even threatened to pull Nielsen’s nomination in a heated Oval Office meeting the week after she was nominated. Trump had been watching several Fox News personalities, including Ann Coulter, rip Nielsen as soft on the border. And as the Washington Post first reported, Trump claimed not to have known that Nielsen worked for George W. Bush, who he views as worse than most Democrats… The result: Trump lashes out at Nielsen and blames her — as well as Congress — for the uptick in illegal crossings of the southern border.”

And this is where there is tension between her faithful enforcement of the law and her disappointing record.  How do we view these competing results? Is she a scapegoat?  Or is she actually to blame?  In that article from Axios, though a year old now, it said that there was no empirical evidence to suggest that she is to blame.

Can we find a link between her views and her performance in office?

In my article yesterday, a commenter suggested that I intentionally left out something I didn’t see on Twitter.  Jake Tapper tweeted out Nielsen’s resignation letter along with some claims made by unnamed sources.

Here is the tweet:

Nielsen is said to have claimed that Trump is becoming increasingly unhinged.  For NeverTrumpers or those who don’t care, everything Trump does is unhinged. As a cabinet secretary, one would think that one’s job would entail going as far as one could to achieve that policy legally.  We didn’t elect the secretaries.  Their job is to carry out the will of the president, not their own goals.  So while I said that Nielsen may not have been as ambitious as other advisers, she was clearly opposed to some of Trump’s policies before she was confirmed.

During her confirmation hearing, USAToday reported “President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that she does not support building a wall along the entire length of the U.S. southern border. Kirstjen Nielsen, an attorney with cyber- and homeland security experience, told senators during her confirmation hearing that the border should be fortified instead with a mix of personnel, technology and physicial fencing.”

But it doesn’t end there,  Nielsen had no interest in trying to end DACA.  She said during her confirmation hearing, “I believe that we must and we owe it to them to find a permanent solution.” And as secretary, she said that DHS would not worry about DACA.

The only hard-line stance she took aside from working to end drug trafficking was her use of child cages.  Politico says that “Nielsen instantly became the face of one of the most unpopular policies in America. She was criticized in the news media and then publicly heckled by a crowd when she tried to go out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington one night later.” Yet this doesn’t necessarily reflect her own views on the subject.  As Katie Pavlich pointed out today,  the child separation policy and the “cages” were a procedural reality when Obama was president.  It’s what happens when you have to detain foreigner and his or her family so they can be processed in our immigration system.  It’s only used a political weapon when it suits a narrative.

The left vilified this woman because it was politically convenient.  And now the left should be concerned because some on the right, who were wary of Nielsen to begin with, are now being heard.  It is said the Nielsen’s resignation may be a part of the Trump Administration’s plan to implement harsher immigration policies. The Washington Examiner says this, “A senior U.S. official told CBS News that Nielsen’s resignation was part of a larger effort by Miller to overhaul DHS. This comes after the New York Times reports Trump and Miller would often complain in private about Nielsen, pinning on her the blame for a surge in migrants arriving to the U.S. and a lack of a solution to secure the border with Mexico.”

CNN adds, Her departure is a victory for conservative immigration voices, such as White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who have long had Trump’s ear and are pushing the President to adopt an even more hardline border policy.”

I suppose 2020 will be the judge of all that.  Right now, it is obvious that under Nielsen’s time at DHS, Trump has not carried out his central campaign promise. The situation has not improved.  Whether that is due to Trump’s incompetence, his own apathy, or his duplicity, we don’t know.  His hiring practices are a better indication of his desired policy ends.  We don’t know whether he anticipated Nielsen’s tenure to go this way.  Perhaps it is her own incompetence that is to blame.  Maybe she did have her own policy goals that were not in line with the president’s

And while I can make the case that nobody liked Nielsen except for General Kelly, Trump’s pick for a replacement should show us whether we were correct to blame her and not Trump.

Until then, the left should mourn the loss of a cabinet secretary who restrained some of Trump’s disagreeable policies.

And the right should worry that Nielsen wasn’t actually the problem.


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