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The Department of Homeland Security takes the lead on Mexico

Last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. Her first question: Should her job even exist, or should the 22 federal agencies and 200,000 employees under the D.H.S. banner disaggregate?

Napolitano, the former governor of border-state Arizona, didn't get defensive at Maddow's question, she just calmly explained her plans for the agency. Surprisingly her top priority seems to be Mexico.

Sounding sensibly hawkish, Napolitano stressed the importance of federal agencies working together to systematically to stop the flow of guns and money south and give Mexican authorities the shot in the arm they desperately need.

What's so weird about this? Two things.

First, Janet Napolitano is the secretary of homeland security, not defense or state. But rather than ineptly responding to natural disasters and taking a lot of flak for airport lines, Napolitano has taken leadership over the U.S. response to the burgenoning crisis, which may include sending troops across the border. She's acted as point-person for local politicians and leadership from the White House, State, Defense, and the Attorney General's office. Texas Governor Rick Perry turned to her to ask for a thousand more troops.

Second, D.H.S. hasn't been a happy perch in government -- even its employees hate it. Is this change we can believe in for the department that needs it the most? (Well, maybe second-most.)

Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

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