Quotes of the day

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced his resignation Thursday afternoon, declaring “our list of accomplishments is real.”

“I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never leave the work,” Mr. Holder said in an event in the East Room of the White House with President Obama at his side.

Mr. Holder said the administration over the last six years has made “historic gains” and “fought to protect the most sacred of American rights — the right to vote.”…

The president said Mr. Holder approached him over the summer and told him that “six years was a pretty good run.”


The one constant, from Washington to Obama and Randolph to Holder, is that presidents wanted somebody they knew and trusted in the post. It is why Obama could support Holder through Fast and Furious, the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the non-prosecution of the bankers who gave us the 2008 crash, the crackdown on journalists and the historic vote by the House to hold the attorney general in contempt.

Having friends like Holder around can help combat something Obama worried about in 2008. Less than two weeks after he was elected, he told Steve Kroft on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that past presidents had warned him about the loneliness and isolation that comes with the job. “All of them recognize there’s a certain loneliness to the job,” said Obama, who added, “even now, you know… you can already feel that fact.” And that has only grown worse in the succeeding six years. Vanity Fair dubbed Obama “The Lonely Guy,” reporting that Valerie Jarrett had warned him after his election, “You’ll never make any new friends.”

So the loss of an old friend in Holder is likely to sting even more. The president has joked about the quote often attributed – inaccurately – to President Harry Truman that if you want a friend in Washington, “get a dog.” So maybe it is good, with Holder fleeing, that Obama already has Bo and Sunny in place. He just may need their comfort when Senate confirmation hearings begin on Holder’s replacement.


On no issue is that more true than race—a subject on which current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men say that Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say.

“He’s a race man,” Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s, told me earlier this year for a profile of the attorney general in POLITICO Magazine. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”

And Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.”

In part, that’s why Obama long resisted calls, from inside and outside the administration during the first term, to dump Holder, including quiet rumblings by some aides who wanted Obama to ease him out after the 2012 reelection.


“We are engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder,” Sharpton said in a statement.

Sharpton praised Holder, the first African-American attorney general, as the “best” one in history when it comes to civil rights.

“The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder is met with both pride and disappointment by the Civil Rights community,” he said. “We are proud that he has been the best Attorney General on Civil Rights in U.S. history and disappointed because he leaves at a critical time when we need his continued diligence most.”


Verrilli’s defense of controversial Obama programs might make for some tense questions, but it’s hard to imagine an attorney general having a more fraught relationship with Congress than Holder. Republicans began criticizing Holder even before Obama was inaugurated. The low point came in June 2012, when House Republicans held him in contempt of Congress for refusing to share documents related to Fast and Furious, a botched Keystone Kops-esque gun-running sting in Mexico connected to the death of a federal agent. The relationship hasn’t improved much since. In a rare entertaining moment in a congressional hearing, Holder in April took a rhetorical potshot at GOP Representative Louie Gohmert for a past malapropism about asparagus. Holder also clashed with Congress over, and ultimately failed in, a quest to try terror suspects in civilian courts in the United States.

Meanwhile, he faced criticism from liberals and civil libertarians for enabling Obama’s prosecution of the War on Terror. Among other cases, during his term as the nation’s top lawman, the U.S. assassinated an American citizen in Yemen without a trial under questionable and not fully explained legal justifications. Holder also drew fire for failing to prosecute big banks more rigorously in the wake of the financial crisis, although in recent months, Justice has extracted a series of settlements from large institutions. Meanwhile, Holder outlasted a powerful roster of nemeses with the Obama administration, in part on the strength of his personal connection with the president, as Glenn Thrush reported in an excellent profile earlier this year.


“It is good news that Eric Holder has announced his resignation,” Cruz said, adding:

“Sadly, he has proven to be the most partisan attorney general in our history, repeatedly defying and refusing to enforce the law. It did not have to be this way, but Holder’s leadership has grievously undermined the Department of Justice’s long bipartisan tradition of independence and fidelity to law.”…

“Holder had an opportunity to fairly investigate the IRS’s illegal targeting of citizen groups. Rather than do so, he entrusted the investigation to a major Democratic donor and brazenly refused to appoint a special prosecutor,” Cruz said. Elaborating, he stated:

“For two years now, the Department has obstructed justice and impeded any fair investigation of the IRS’s abuse of power; in response to Holder’s partisan dereliction of duty, I publicly called for his impeachment. To this day, no one has been yet held accountable for the IRS scandal, and it is incumbent upon the next attorney general to uphold the law without regard to partisan ideology.”


Holder’s tenure has been marked by a disturbing mix of duplicity, incompetence, and obliviousness.

Which is another way of saying that he was a thoroughly typical attorney general, a cabinet position that has long been held by individuals whose first loyalty is to the president that appointed them rather than to the Constitution they swear to defend.

From A. Mitchell Palmer (who rounded up and deported real and imagined Communists) to John Mitchell (convicted on perjury charges related to Watergate) to Janet Reno (who ordered the disastrous assault on the Branch Davidians and spent years threatening to censor cable TV), the position has long been a holding tank for low-performing miscreants…

Back in 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama rightly attacked the risible performance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom he said conceived of his job as being “the president’s attorney” rather than “the people’s attorney.”

Yet that’s exactly how Eric Holder has behaved during his time in office. Holder exists to protect the president and his policies. Worse still, his successor will almost certainly take up exactly where he leaves off.



Via the Weekly Standard.

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