Eric Holder continues to cast a long shadow over the Barack Obama campaign. The former deputy AG for the Clinton administration played a key role in perhaps the most scandalous presidential pardon ever, which Clinton issued to fugitive Marc Rich in the last hours of his presidency. His role in another pardon and in an international custody case has brought the Obama campaign under fire in Florida, where Elian Gonzalez is still seen as a victim of Janet Reno:
Eight years after the furor over the repatriation of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba possibly cost Al Gore the state of Florida in his 537-vote loss to George W. Bush, the international custody saga has returned to haunt another Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama.
With two top advisers who played key roles in the episode— Greg Craig, who represented Elian’s father in Cuba, and Eric Holder, then a Clinton administration deputy attorney general when federal agents stormed the Miami home of Gonzalez’ relatives to remove the then-six-year-old and return him to his father in Cuba—Obama now finds himself on the wrong side of an emotional issue in a battleground state.
The wound reopened again last week after Gonzalez returned to the headlines in South Florida following a report in a Cuban communist youth newspaper that he has joined Cuba’s Young Communist Union.
The Obama campaign had hoped to make inroads into the Cuban-American community in south Florida this year with a mix of new initiatives and tough talk on Cuba, but the presence of Craig and Holder has provoked anger instead, and not just among Republicans. Manny Diaz, the Democratic mayor of Miami but also the attorney for the Gonzalez family in the US, has so far refused to endorse Obama for the general election. Obama’s normally-adoring crowds get joined by dozens of protestors in Florida, angry at Obama’s inclusion of two men they see as tainted by the Gonzalez affair.
One has to wonder why Obama, who ran on a campaign of “change”, populates that campaign with leftovers like Holder and Craig. Holder has more than one problem; the Rich pardon followed a similar action for several Puerto Rican terrorists of FALN, which Holder also helped move through the DoJ. In fact, Holder admitted that he didn’t bother to contact the victims of the terrorists for their input, and in general did a poor job with the FALN pardons, and on pardons in general:
And yet Obama appointed Holder not just to the VP selection committee but also to his body of foreign-policy advisers — a role for which Holder has no obvious experience or insight. It looks like a clear signal that Holder will get a high-ranking role in an Obama administration, even though nothing Holder has done has demonstrated much competency at all. In the case of the Rich pardon, he served as a key conduit in what looks like a bald quid pro quo to gain cash from Rich’s ex-wife Denise, who pushed for the pardon. It seems all the more strange, since Obama attacked Hillary Clinton over the issuance of that pardon as well as the FALN pardons, to hire Holder to not one but two posts in his campaign.Nor is that the first controversy involving Holder. When police shootings in Washington DC escalated, Reno put Holder in charge of a federal probe to see if civil-rights violations had taken place. What the DoJ failed to acknowledge was that Holder had been one of the people responsible for investigating police shootings in DC before his appointment to the Clinton administration — and that his new probe would be a conflict of interest, as he would in part be investigating his own actions.
Does the Gonzalez affair reach those depths? Not really; in fact, other than the heavy-handed tactics that Reno and Holder deployed to rip Elian from the home of his relatives, it’s difficult to imagine another outcome of that case. With his mother dead, Elian’s father had first claim on custody — and had American courts ruled differently, it would not have taken long before a country like Iran or Cuba began granting custody of American citizen children to parents in their countries under similar circumstances. The Gonzalez case was an unhappy set of circumstances that would never have had a completely happy ending for all involved.
However, why Obama wants to associate himself twice over with one of the authors of that case seems beyond understanding. Holder has all sorts of baggage clinging to him like a Midwesterner and his Bible. Now that baggage has transferred to Obama, for no apparent good purpose. If this is the kind of decision-making we’ll continue to see with Obama, voters should wonder what “change” means.