Why the Loretta Lynch nomination is absolutely political

By now you are doubtless aware that the President called a presser earlier today to officially announce what the cable news networks had been saying for days. His pick for the new Attorney General, replacing the outgoing Eric Holder, is New York U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

If confirmed, Lynch will become the first African-American woman in the job, succeeding Holder, who was the first African-American head of the Justice Department.

“I couldn’t be more proud to nominate Loretta Lynch as our next attorney general,” Obama said during a brief White House ceremony.

The president cited Lynch’s successful efforts as U.S. attorney for eastern New York in prosecuting terrorists, mobsters and Democratic and Republican public officials.

“It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for the job than Loretta,” Obama said.

Watching the coverage leading up to the press conference there was one repeating theme from both the media and Democrat spokespersons. (But I repeat myself.) While there was plenty of touting of Lynch’s various qualifications, the one item which was mentioned so many times that I lost count was the fact that she had previously been twice approved by the Senate. (In 1999 by Clinton and again in 2010 by Obama.) And, these talking heads were studious in pointing out to me, each of those confirmations passed unanimously. (Actually, on a voice vote.)

Just to make sure I was getting the message, the news desk anchors further assured me on multiple occasions that Lynch had prosecuted both Democrats and Republicans. This was apparently critical information, letting me know that she couldn’t possibly be some sort of partisan activist… perish the thought. (Though it should be clear that people from both parties commit crimes, so really that’s only a definition of doing your job.) CNN also trotted out one of her staffers from New York who is – and they Really Really Really want to stress thisa Republican. And her only comment was the fact that she is, indeed, a Republican and Ms. Lynch doesn’t care about such things.

The reason for this seemed to be made clear when the White House issued the following demand.

The White House has urged Senate officials to work out the timeline for her confirmation as soon as possible.

The same people who had previously cautioned the President about trying to push this through in the lame duck session were not impressed and haven’t changed their minds since then.

“Democrat senators who just lost their seats shouldn’t confirm (a) new Attorney General,” [Senator Ted Cruz] tweeted on Friday. “(They) should be vetted by (the) new Congress.”

“Ms. Lynch will receive fair consideration by the Senate,” [Senator Mitch McConnell] said. “And her nomination should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.”

What we’re seeing here is yet another sign that absolutely nothing has changed in the White House after the drubbing they received in the midterms and we shouldn’t expect any new era cooperation. When Eric Holder announced that he would be retiring earlier this year he also stated that he would stick around until his successor was in place. He placed no time limit on this. If there is some pressing reason that he needs to be out the door before Christmas, he should have said so. But since he did not, we should be free to assume that he is available through January.

The past two times when Loretta Lynch was confirmed it was for a position as a United States Attorney. For those of you keeping score at home, there are 93 US Attorneys serving at any given time and they come and go as with any other government office. They are put forward for confirmation all the time, and unless they have done something to gain a prominent level of notoriety, they get a minimal level of vetting and debate at best, frequently approved on a voice vote. The position Ms. Lynch is being nominated for now is as a full member of the Cabinet. That’s a very different matter and requires a higher standard and a greater level of scrutiny.

But clearly, President Obama is preparing to use Loretta Lynch as a pawn in a larger political game. By picking someone with her professional history and then calling for a “quick timeline for her confirmation” the President is setting up the Republicans for a fight. When they insist that a thorough vetting and debate is called for and should be done by the new Congress selected by the voters, Obama will once again unleash the tired canard about how all the GOP leadership can do is obstruct. This is not a bug in the system, it’s a feature. He’s spoiling for that fight, and from the look of things he will absolutely get it. Nothing has changed since Tuesday. Nothing.