By Alan Caruba
In a nation where there is a scarcity of good news, hearing Eric Holder give a farewell speech upon his announcement that he will be leaving as the Attorney General was surely welcome in some circles. I was never a fan of his because he was in my opinion always more of a politician than someone with the responsibility to enforce the laws of the nation.
I first took notice of Holder when, in the pre-dawn hours of April 22, 2000, as the deputy attorney general serving under Janet Reno, he oversaw the seizure of Elian Gonzalez, a seven-year-old whose mother had died in an effort to escape Cuba and find sanctuary in the United States. Holder was doing what he had to do after a court ruled that Gonzalez be returned to his father in Cuba, but I thought then and still do that Gonzalez should have been allowed to remain with his U.S. relatives.
When Barack Obama became President, he selected Holder as his Attorney General. Both had made history being the first blacks to hold either job. Within three weeks or so, Holder was saying that Americans were “cowards” for not addressing issues of race in America. That told me all I needed to know about him. Whatever would follow would frequently be judged on the basis of race, not justice. I wouldn’t want a white attorney general to act in that fashion, but a black one nursing feelings of victimization despite his personal achievements did not bode well.
I have not been alone in my misgivings. On news of Holder’s announcement, The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, called on some of its advisors for their opinions.
Ronald D. Rotunda, the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Chapman University, had his own memories of Holder:
“Mr. Holder is leaving the office, but he cannot so easily leave the controversies that have surrounded his tenure, including: the scandal surrounding the IRS, the missing emails, and his role in investigating the scandal; the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal, which made him the first cabinet member in U.S. history that Congress held in contempt; his decision to drop a prosecution against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation, after the Department of Justice successfully secured an injunction; and the unprecedented decision, which Holder personally approved, to subpoena, monitor, and issue a search warrant involving James Rosen, a Fox News Reporter”
“Holder will leave the office, but is unlikely to leave the national stage because these controversies remain,” said Prof. Rotunda.
Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of the Association of Physicians and Surgeons, said:
“The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons first got to know Eric Holder when he represented the government in our lawsuit about the illegal operations of the Clinton Task Force on Health Care Reform. The pattern then was stonewalling and obfuscation. Even when task force members finally turned over some documents on court order, many of the floppy disks were blank. Holder declined to prosecute Ira Magaziner, head of the Task Force Working Group, for perjury.”
‘It seems,” said Dr. Orient, “that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct,'’ Judge Lamberth added. ‘Most shocking to this court, and deeply disappointing, is that the Department of Justice would participate in such conduct... This type of conduct is reprehensible, and the government must be held accountable for it…The pattern has only worsened with Holder as the highest law enforcement officer in the land. Who will ever hold him and the White House accountable?”
Jesse Hathaway, Managing Editor of Heartland’s Budget & Tax News, said:
“Eric Holder's resignation represents an opportunity for the President to appoint an Attorney General willing to end what some have seen as a witch-hunt against American banks. Under Holder, the Department of Justice shook down Bank of America for billions of dollars, as punishment the bank's alleged crime of complying with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and lending money to individuals unable to repay. The CRA mandated that banks must make bad loans, the banks complied with the bad policy, but the bank is not at fault for the results of that bad policy.”
“Hopefully, said Hathaway, “whomever replaces Holder as ‘top cop’ will understand how causality works, and end the practice of shaking down the finance industry as punishment for following Washington DC's orders.”
Holder’s instincts as Attorney General generated a huge public outcry when he decided to try the September 11 plotters in a New York courthouse within walking distance of the destroyed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Lawmakers, New York City officials, and some of the victim’s families thought that was a very bad idea and Holder reversed the decision and sent the cases to military court. 9/11 was clearly an act of war, but neither the President, nor Holder saw it that way.
Holder made a bit of history when he refused to defend a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. He made more history when, refusing to hand over documents regarding Fast and Furious, a scandal involving gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels, Congress voted to hold him in contempt, the first time an attorney general had been censured in that way. Holder, however, held onto his job because the President had thrown a cloak of “executive privilege” over the scandal, stonewalling Congress.
To be fair, Holder has been lauded for policies that were applauded for reducing crime during his tenure in office and urging a revision to sentences that did not reflect the crimes, reducing the nation’s prison population in the process.
In the end, though, it seems like everything was about race for him and the President. Holder inserted himself into the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of a black youth by a white police officer and, while the facts are still being investigated, the likelihood is that it was justifiable self-defense. And the President, speaking at the United Nations last week also mentioned Ferguson as an example of America’s racial bias. What happened in Ferguson was about law enforcement and justice, but neither saw it in that fashion.
What America needs now for the remainder of Obama’s term in office is a colorblind Attorney General.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
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