This was written, I believe, before the news broke this morning about the DOJ quasi-indicting James Rosen for the crime of practicing journalism. So if Dems in the know were whispering before, they’re downright murmuring now.
If Holder goes, who becomes conservatives’ new least favorite cabinet member? Kerry or Hagel?
Nevertheless, the controversies are undermining the president; his slow, reactive, alternately passive and cavalier responses are playing into critics’ hands. Experienced Democrats, outside the White House, want Obama to be more proactive, assertive and forthright to salvage his second term.
Among the bolder actions they want him to consider:…
— Accept Holder’s resignation. A favorite target of Republicans, the attorney general now has few fans among prominent Democrats. Given his record, his departure would be important substantively as well as symbolically.
— Abandon widely discussed consideration of making United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice the head of the National Security Council later this year. She isn’t responsible for Benghazi and has been unfairly pilloried by critics such as Graham. Still, in her five network television appearances immediately after the tragedy, she displayed poor judgment. While head of the NSC isn’t a post requiring Senate confirmation, appointing Rice would reignite the firestorm in this largely faux scandal.
Another suggestion is to appoint a special prosecutor for the IRS scandal, an idea in which National Journal’s Ron Fournier concurs. As for Holder, you already know the problems with replacing him — arguably it fuels the fire of scandalmania rather than dousing the flames, and it gives Obama a new problem in trying to find a replacement who’s acceptable to both sides. A third, not-so-minor problem is that there’s no evidence at all that subpoenaing the AP’s phone records and snooping on Rosen were practices that Obama disapproves of. He’s been quick to denounce the IRS, but unless I’ve missed it, he’s said not a word second-guessing the DOJ. Why would he? Obama’s greed for secrecy and contempt for leaks is well known. It’s not easy to fire a guy when he’s doing exactly what you want.
And here’s a fourth possible problem. After all the criticism of Holder from Republicans, can O get away with canning him or will his base scream? A thought from Politico:
Many Holder supporters view him as a proxy of sorts for the president, absorbing political blows that Republicans would like to administer directly to Obama but can’t without violating certain principles of decorum.
“Fast and Furious did not involve the president, so who do you focus on? The attorney general,” D.C. Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton said. “He’s taking the flak for the president.”…
Support for Holder remains strong among many on the legal left, especially after he and his department came out hard against voter identification laws and other measures they said could disenfranchise minorities. The aggressive GOP campaign against Holder may also have rallied some partisans to his side.
All true, but on the other hand, scapegoating Holder for Obama’s anti-leak practices might help liberal O-bots resolve the cognitive dissonance between their idealized view of the Unicorn Prince as a champion of good government and the unpleasant daily reality. Blame Holder, boot him out, and then they can gaze once again at O as the fantasy president they wished he was. There’s something too to Sandy Levin’s idea that the longer this drags on, the greater the potential it has to consume the next few months of O’s term, potentially upending immigration reform. I’m not sure he’s right — there are reasons to believe that scandal is good for compromise — but pushing Holder out might hand the GOP a base-pleasing “victory” that they could then use for cover in making a deal on amnesty. And of course, Senate and House Dems are worried that if the scandals deepen, it’ll wreck whatever small chance they still have of a big victory in 2014. According to one senior strategist, “The entire party is interested that the White House gets this dealt with. It makes it very, very tough.” Dumping Holder won’t itself salve the wound of an unrelated scandal like the IRS kerfuffle, but he’s a big enough name that it’ll help.
Who will replace him, though? Well, how about … Fitz! It was Bush who made him a U.S. Attorney, where he prosecuted many a Chicago sleazebag (including
Democrats George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich), but he’s most famous of course for the Plame investigation and prosecution of Scooter Libby. Republicans won’t make too much of a stink about that lest they be seen defending Dubya’s administration and Democrats won’t make much of a stink about Fitzgerald because they’ll be exceptionally eager to finally turn the page on this mess. Surely there are 60 votes in the Senate for a guy who made his own name as a good government type operating in Obama’s corrupt home state.
Exit question: Have any reporters followed up yet on Holder’s absurd non-explanation for why he didn’t issue a written recusal in the AP investigation? Kind of important to do so, right?
Update: Oops, total brainlock on my part. Blagojevich is a Democrat but George Ryan is a Republican. Oh well — only makes the bipartisan case for confirming Fitz more compelling.