The Washington Post reports that the confirmation of Eric Holder appears headed for rough waters when hearings begin on Thursday. A series of revelations since Barack Obama announced his appointment as Attorney General have Republicans looking deep into his records and Democrats acknowledging that more time is needed to research serious questions. And even the Post has begun to link Holder with Alberto Gonzales and mention “politicization”:
The confirmation process, said Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the judiciary panel’s top Republican, will be Holder’s “day in court” and a chance to “state his case” — an awkward position for a man more accustomed to negotiating disputes than engaging in bare-knuckled fights.
Specter previewed the main line of attack in a floor speech this week, asserting that, in Holder’s years as President Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, he at times “appeared to be serving the interest of his superiors” rather than heeding recommendations from career Justice Department lawyers. The argument echoed criticism that former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned in 2007, had acted to please his friend President Bush rather than to uphold the principles of justice.
In a pointed effort to scrub Holder’s past, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and two other leading GOP Judiciary Committee members submitted a public records request this week to Illinois officials, seeking information on a thwarted $300,000 legal services contract that Holder won from now-disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).
The LA Times exposé on Holder’s role in the FALN pardons will undoubtedly play a central role in the hearings. Democrats screeched about politicization of Justice during Gonzales’ tenure because of the termination of at-will political appointments, but Holder pressured careerists at Justice in 1999 to change their opinions on granting pardons to FALN terrorists. He twisted arms to get Bill Clinton some political cover for clemency, which Clinton thought he needed to get Latino support for Hillary in the 2000 Senate race in New York. That’s real politicization, and it shows Holder as nothing more than a hatchet man.
That same impression will be made when the subject turns to Holder’s aborted partnership with Rod Blagojevich. Holder neglected to mention this on his questionnaire, but he agreed to represent Blagojevich to the Illinois Gaming Board to help push through a casino that Blagojevich and Obama ally Tony Rezko needed for his own financial benefit. The Gaming Board refused to accept Holder, and the Senate Judiciary Committee (or at least the Republican members) will be interested in hearing what exactly Holder intended to do for the corrupt cabal in Illinois.
The biggest question will be whether Barack Obama wants to have Blagojevich, Rezko, Clinton pardons, and freed terrorists discussed on the national news in connection to his incoming Hope and Change administration. Will he stick with Holder? Or will he wisely decide to find someone less connected to scandals and more interested in Justice than politics? I’d bet the wheels of the bus go thump, thump, thump by Wednesday.