That didn’t take long.
As we observed throughout the campaign, Barack Obama gave indications that his election would mean a return to the September 10 mentality, a national-security outlook marked prominently by its lack of seriousness about the terrorist threat. In choosing Eric Holder to be his attorney general, President-Elect Obama has taken a step toward confirming those misgivings.
He is convinced justice in America needs to be “established” rather than enforced; he’s excited about hate crimes and enthusiastic about the constitutionally dubious Violence Against Women Act; he’s a supporter of affirmative action and a practitioner of the statistical voodoo that makes it possible to burden police departments with accusations of racial profiling and the states with charges of racially skewed death-penalty enforcement; he’s more likely to be animated by a touchy-feely Reno-esque agenda than traditional enforcement against crimes; he’s in favor of ending the detentions of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and favors income redistribution to address the supposed root causes of crime.
In any other time, Holder would simply be an uninspired choice. But these are not ordinary times — we face a serious, persistent threat from Islamist terrorists. At the same time, Democrats have expressed outrage over both the alleged politicization of the Justice Department and the reckless disregard of its storied traditions. For these times, it is difficult to imagine a worse choice for AG than Eric Holder.
Holder’s role was aptly described as “unconscionable” by a congressional committee. He steered Rich’s allies to retain the influential former White House counsel Jack Quinn (Holder later conceded he hoped Quinn would help him become attorney general in a Gore administration); he helped Quinn directly lobby Clinton, doing an end-run around the standard pardon process (including DOJ’s pardon attorney); and he kept the deliberations hidden from the district U.S. attorney and investigative agencies prosecuting Rich so they couldn’t learn about the pardon application and register their objections.
There’s more. In 1999, over the objections of the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and prosecuting attorneys, Holder supported Clinton’s commutation of the sentences of 16 FALN conspirators. These pardons — of terrorists who even Holder has conceded had not expressed any remorse — were issued in the months after al-Qaeda’s 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, when the Clinton administration was pretending to be the scourge of terrorism. The commutations were nakedly political, obviously designed by Clinton to assist his wife’s impending Senate campaign by appealing to New York’s substantial Puerto Rican vote.
Equally noxious were the stealthy pardons of Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans — Weather Underground terrorists associated with Obama’s friends Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn — issued on the same day as the Rich pardon. Rosenberg and Evans had been serving decades-long sentences for bombings targeting American government facilities. With Holder again helping to circumvent the pardon process and to evade objections from prosecutors, the terrorists’ jail terms were commuted just weeks after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
Under Holder’s stewardship, moreover, the Justice Department chose, in the Dickerson case, to oppose its own prosecutors and seek reversal of the conviction of a bank robber whose voluntary confession had been elicited without Miranda warnings. Taking the Justice Department’s signal, the Supreme Court overruled the lower courts and vacated the conviction, upending 30 years of precedent which had held that Miranda was not part of the core Fifth Amendment guarantee. Thanks to this ruling, rendered in the comfort of pre-9/11 complacence, terrorists tried in civilian courts — which is where Obama and Holder want them to be tried — will enjoy a powerful argument against the admission of critical confession evidence.
To be blunt, Holder is a terrible selection. If there’s any Obama cabinet nomination that Republicans feel moved to oppose, this should be it.