The Corner

Eric Holder Is Eric Holder’s Worst Enemy

Last time Attorney General Eric Holder was angry at congressional oversight he unwisely went to the New York Times to complain that the scrutiny was driven by racial prejudice against him (e.g., “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him . . . both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”). This was from the country’s top justice official, in charge of enforcing all the people’s laws, who had earlier referred in testimony to African Americans as “my people.”

Now even angrier, he more unwisely takes a second turn at the Washington Post to complain that the contempt charge was due to both backlash over his on-the-barricades work for the oppressed and the poisonous climate in Washington: “I came to Washington in the late ’70s, and people had the ability in the past to have intense policy differences but didn’t feel the need to question the other person’s character. And that’s where we are now in Washington with at least one part of the Republican party. That’s what they do, almost as a matter of course.”

This is sort of surreal — are the Democrats who voted to hold Holder in contempt part of the Republican party?

Policy differences? Was arranging pardons in a previous administration for convicted felons based on “policy” or rank quid pro quo partisanship? 

And to question someone’s character? Holder himself smeared congressional interrogators as racists in lieu of simply turning over accurate documents and statements as requested in the Fast and Furious investigation. Angry that the nation did not share his approach to civil rights, Holder once dubbed it collectively “a nation of cowards” (e.g., “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”). He suggested the Arizona law was tantamount to racial profiling — before admitting that he had not even read it. (“I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is.”)

In fact, Eric Holder (a beneficiary of bipartisanship, as a former Reagan-appointed judge and having been confirmed as attorney general with numerous Republican votes) is simply incapable of adjudicating a controversial issue without questioning the motives or character of those with whom he disagrees. Even when Holder cites his own accomplishments, he unfortunately makes the case for his exaggerated partisan style (e.g., “My bet will be that people are going to remember the stands I took to prevent the disenfranchisement of millions of people, the position I stood for in not defending the Defense of Marriage Act . . .).

Well, yes, they will remember that, but largely in the context of his making baseless accusations that some states crafted commonly accepted ID procedures, consistent with everyday practice, with the sole intent to deny “millions of” qualified people the right to vote, which is not only not true, but just the sort of reckless charge one now associates with Holder. And as far as not defending in court a duly passed law, whatever one thinks of the law’s merits, it used to be true in the United States that a justice official was sworn to enforce and defend the laws, even those with which he might not agree.

All that and more is why Holder will not — as he also seems to have boasted to the Washington Post — be remembered so much as the nation’s first African-American attorney general (Washington Post: “As the first African American attorney general, Holder said he does not believe that history will judge him by the contempt vote.”), but rather sadly as the most ideologically driven and yet inept attorney general since John Mitchell, a kindred partisan of similar temperament whose lamentable fate Holder seems so intent on sharing.


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