The Campaign Spot

Will Eric Holder Be Obama’s Andrew Young?

A reader makes the intriguing comparison of Attorney General Eric Holder to former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young.

Carl Gershman, writing in Commentary, August 1978:

Though Young outraged many people by calling Cuban troops in Angola “a force for stability,” or advising Americans not to be “paranoid” about “a few thousand” Communist soldiers in Africa, or by hurling indiscriminate charges of racism at U.S. allies, adversaries, past Presidents, and even the borough of Queens, he also strengthened his credibility at the UN by saying such things and enlarged his popularity among many American blacks. Not long after Young took office, the Nigerian foreign minister called him the “symbol of a new and constructive United States policy toward Africa,” and three leaders of the NAACP, including Roy Wilkins, praised him for speaking the “brutal, unvarnished truth” about racism in America and urged President Carter not to let the “enemies of racial progress” sway him from supporting Young.
. . . at a meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights, a body which includes some of the harshest despotisms on the planet, Young said, “I see my country as vulnerable as anybody else’s around the table.” He made a similar point during the Shcharansky trial when he said that there are “hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people whom I would call political prisoners” in the United States.

While Pres. Jimmy Carter generally backed Young’s controversial statements, saying only that he wished he would be “more careful,” he grew to become a political liability to the administration. Young finally resigned his position as Ambassador to the U.N. in August 1979 after he met with a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization without informing Secretary of State Cyrus Vance or President Carter.

Beyond the controversy of Young’s remarks, he became a distraction to the president at a time when the U.S. faced a multitude of expanding crises — that year alone, the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan was kidnapped and killed, Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown, the Baader-Meinhof gang tried to assassinate NATO Supreme Commander Alexander Haig, Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq, the Sandinistas took over Nicaragua, the country was undergoing its second oil shock of the decade, and the president was attacked by a rabbit.

How many times can Holder create an unintended controversy before he becomes a problem for the administration?

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