"George W. Bush spent much of last year's presidential campaign lambasting Sen. John Kerry for viewing terrorism as a law-enforcement problem. Now, on the eve of his second term, Bush picks a [prosecutor] as his counterterrorism chief," Slate's Fred Kaplan notes.

Chertoff enters the position with a number of advantages. Certainly he's a far better choice than Bush's first pick, the ill-starred Bernard Kerik, and more astute than his predecessor, Thomas Ridge. Having been vetted by the Senate for two previous jobs, he will likely sail through confirmation. He knows a lot about the issues and has thought about them on a high level. He knows the inner workings of the Justice Department and the FBI. As a U.S. attorney in New York and New Jersey, in the 1980s and '90s, he has dealt directly with local law enforcement.On the other hand, he has never run a large organization, managed a big budget, or dealt with larger issues of national security, transportation, infrastructure, or technology. There is also reason to wonder if Chertoff might wind up less a dispassionate analyst than a partisan cheerleader. In the mid-'90s, he worked as the Republicans' counsel on Al D'Amato's Senate Whitewater Committee. He made public appearances on behalf of Sen. Robert Dole's presidential bid, attacking Clinton on moral charges that the committee had raised (but not proved). And even in those realms of homeland security where Chertoff has clear expertise, his position on key issues is unclear or contradictory.
Jeralyn Merritt and the Times have more on the nominee.

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