Politics & Policy

We Weren’t Invited to Holder’s Going-Away Party, but We Approve of It

(Drew Angerer/Getty)
An attorney general who has shown contempt for the law is finally leaving office.

With yesterday’s Senate confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Attorney General Eric Holder will finally be leaving the Justice Department building soon. After six years, he leaves behind a demoralized department that has been politicized to an unprecedented degree. 

Attorneys general are obligated to enforce the law in an objective, unbiased, and non-political manner. They must demonstrate the highest regard for the best interests of the public and for their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Prior attorneys general of both political parties — Benjamin Civiletti, Griffin Bell, Ed Meese, Michael Mukasey — have fulfilled that duty to the highest ethical and professional standards. 

But not Eric Holder. He has put the interests of his political boss ahead of the administration of justice. When President Obama bent, broke, changed, or rewrote the law, the person at his side advising him how to do it was Eric Holder. All the while, he maintained a façade of respect for the rule of law, something for which he and the president have at times demonstrated utter contempt.

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#related#Holder’s failure to enforce federal laws such as our immigration statutes is a particularly acute betrayal of the most basic standard that applies to the attorney general. The nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, the attorney general has acted instead as the political lawyer of an overly partisan president. Holder has one of the lowest approval ratings of any public official.

The recent cases in which judges found that Justice Department prosecutors engaged in prosecutorial abuse during Holder’s tenure show how much this high-level corruption has seeped also into the department’s lower levels. 

In a failed prosecution of a peaceful abortion protester, for example, a federal judge remarked on the nearly total lack of evidence of any violation of the law. The protester had been targeted in an effort to chill the political speech of pro-life advocates. In another case, involving police officers in New Orleans, a federal judge, finding that the Justice Department had committed “grotesque prosecutorial abuse,” complained about the “skullduggery” and “perfidy” of DOJ prosecutors.

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The politically motivated hiring of civil servants that has gone on in parts of the Justice Department, such as the Civil Rights Division, guarantees that radical ideologues will continue to permeate the department for years to come. As former federal prosecutor and National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy has observed, under Eric Holder the Justice Department has become a “full employment program for progressive activists, race-obsessed bean counters (redundant, I know), and lawyers who volunteered their services during the Bush years to help al-Qaeda operatives file lawsuits against the United States.”

The legal theories advanced by the administration have been so far outside the mainstream that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against Holder’s Justice Department unanimously almost two dozen times. Those cases have ranged from the Hosanna-Tabor decision, where the Justice Department claimed that the religious-freedom clause of the First Amendment did not protect the hiring decisions of a church, to the Sackett case, where the department tried to prevent a family from defending itself in court and from contesting a ludicrous administrative order from EPA bureaucrats that would have subjected them to a fine up to $75,000 a day. 

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Many of those cases have a common theme: a frightening view of unlimited federal power, one untempered by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

Eric Holder has aggressively used the enormous power of the Justice Department to abuse the liberty and economic rights of Americans, to manipulate racial politics to drive a wedge of hostility deep into our society, and to exploit the administration of justice as a political tool to benefit his president and his political party. There is no way to know how long it will take to repair the damage he has done. One thing we do know: It will take a new attorney general with the political willpower and steadfastness of a kind that is rarely seen in Washington. 

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Unfortunately, it is unlikely Loretta Lynch will clean up Holder’s misbegotten legacy. She made it clear in her confirmation hearings that she did not disagree with a single act of Eric Holder or President Obama. So her tenure will probably just be Holder 2.0.

Nonetheless, to paraphrase Mark Twain, we weren’t invited to Eric Holder’s going-away festivities at the Justice Department, but we approve of them, since they mean that one of the worst attorneys general in recent memory is finally leaving office.


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