Monday, November 19, 2007

Fran Who?

Taking a brief respite from my office chores, I hopped onto the net and was greeted with news that Fran Townshend had resigned from White House service. Now I knew I had heard the name before in connection with George W. Bush's staff, but I could not immediately recall what her position was. According to this article in the Los Angeles Times she actually had quite an impressive sounding title: she was the homeland security advisor (note the lack of capital letters) for the White House and apparently led the Homeland Security Council at the White House (note the caps here).

The Homeland Security Council at the White House is apparently separate from the Department of Homeland Security, which is led by a cabinet officer named Michael Chertoff. So, what is it that Ms. Townshend actually did? I'm still not sure, but the article gave some hints.

Fran Townsend, the leading White House-based terrorism advisor who gave public updates on the extent of the threat to U.S. security, is stepping down after 4-1/2 years.

President Bush said in a statement this morning that Townsend, 45, "has ably guided the Homeland Security Council. She has played an integral role in the formation of the key strategies and policies my administration has used to combat terror and protect Americans."

Now, the first paragraph seems to imply that what Ms. Townsend did was serve as a press officer responsible for reporting terrorist threat levels. That is, she advised the media as to the color of the day. The second paragraph, however, suggests that President Bush relied on her for more than that.

To be fair, that may very well be. I do recall her before the cameras assuring us Californians that the federal response to the wild fires here would be better than its response to Hurricane Katrina. OK, fine, her role before the press involves more than terror threats, but what about this "formation of key strategies and policies" bit?

I just don't know, and while I am not exactly a good poster child for what's really going on in this world, I do read several newspapers every day, and what this woman actually did for the past 4+ years is frankly a mystery to me. But that doesn't surprise me in the least.

This administration has been so opaque, so willfully secretive that it is difficult for a citizen to know even the simplest of details as to White House actions, stances, or policies. What is just as appalling is that I'm betting a whole bunch of people in Congress haven't a clue as to what her duties were as well. And that's just plain wrong.

However, to err on the pleasant side, I will just say this:

Thank you for your service, Ms. Townshend, whatever it was.

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