I have been a bit of a skeptic when it came to efforts to get Barack Obama to throw a second member of his vice-presidential vetting committee, former deputy attorney general Eric Holder, under the bus to follow Jim Johnson. As I’ve written only half-jokingly in the past, the guy who wishes he had paused and focused for three minutes when he first heard the words “Marc Rich” and “pardon” in the same sentence is exactly the guy that Obama detractors should want helping pick the Democratic veep.
But Obama is faced with a rather glaring contradiction, beyond the possibility that Holder will miss a scandal on par with Marc Rich.
I’m reminded of the final Democratic debate, when Hillary went after Obama over his ties to William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground. The Illinois senator had pretty tough comeback for Hillary:
“President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago.”
From the comment, it would seem that Obama believes that the decision to pardon those members was either wrong, or at the very least, of greater concern than his relationship with Ayers.
Holder was one of the officials who signed off on Rich’s pardon, although there’s an argument to be made that the rest of the Clinton Administration gave Holder little time or opportunity to give Rich’s case a proper review. No one has found the recommendation of Eric Holder on the pardons of the Weather Underground members. Lanny Davis, a Holder friend, argued that Holder had no role in the pardons of those members, a curious explanation. The Deputy Attorney General assigned to oversee pardon recommendations to the President never had an opinion on this one?
If Barack Obama thought the Clinton administration’s pardons of Weather Underground members were worth bringing up in a debate, did he ask Holder about it before he put him on his veep selection team?
UPDATE: A reader more familiar with the process than me points out that Davis’ claim that Holder had no role just doesn’t hold water.
Looking at the Department of Justice web site:
“The Pardon Attorney, under the direction of the Deputy Attorney General, receives and reviews all petitions for executive clemency (which includes pardon after completion of sentence, commutation of sentence, remission of fine and reprieve), initiates and directs the necessary investigations, and prepares a report and recommendation for submission to the President in every case.”
And Roger Adams, a former DOJ pardon attorney, laid out the process before Congress last June:
“When we are involved, our task is to prepare what is called, ‘a letter of advice’ — actually a report and recommendations setting out what we think the president should do. The Office of the Pardon Attorney sends its report and recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General who reviews it, directs any changes he believes are appropriate, and signs the recommendation when he is satisfied it reflects the department’s best advice on the matter. The report is then sent to the counsel to the president for the president’s consideration.”
How can Holder claim he was out of the loop on those decisions?
UPDATE: The National Legal and Policy Center wants Holder off Obama’s veep selection committee because as U.S. Attorney, he chose not to prosecute Ira Magaziner, head of Hillary Clinton’s health care task force, for possible perjury and criminal contempt of court, despite a federal judge’s recommendation.
I’m thinking of a comment from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, hitting Hillary Clinton for the secrecy surrounding the health care task force:
These documents, according to Newsweek, include Senator Clinton’s “appointment calendar as First Lady, her notes at strategy meetings, what advice she gave her husband and his advisers, what policy memos she wrote, even some key papers from her health-care task force.”
It’s time to turn the page on this kind of secrecy and restore trust in our government.
If Senator Clinton is going to run on her record, the American people deserve to see it.
Uh… if the aim of the Obama campaign is to “turn the page on the secrecy” that surrounded the health care task force, why did they pick the guy who let Ira Magaziner off the hook to help vet Obama’s running mate?