Eric Holder may have never really understood his job

The days of my being surprised over what may come tumbling out of Eric Holder’s mouth at any given moment have long since passed, but this one caught even me a bit off guard. Appearing on MSNBC, Holder expressed regret over what he described as one of his “greatest failures” during his tenure as Attorney General. What could it be? Fast and Furious? The handling of the IRS scandal? Butting in on the Michael Brown case in Missouri? Nope. He’s sorry that new gun control laws weren’t passed.

The inability to enact new gun safety laws after the Sandy Hook school shooting ranks as “the single failure” of his tenure, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a televised interview.

“The gun lobby simply won, you know?” Holder said in the interview shown Sunday on MSNBC, conducted to mark the end of his time as attorney general.

Holder has called his visit to the site of the December 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators the worst day he had in office. After the shootings, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force that would make recommendations for how to avoid such attacks.

In the interview, Holder was asked if the United States was “a nation of cowards” when it comes to guns, a reference to a statement he made in 2009 that the U.S. was a nation of cowards when it came to discussing race relations.

“I don’t think we are a nation of cowards. But I think that members of Congress need to have a little more backbone and stand up to what is a distinct minority even within, for instance, the NRA, and do the kinds of reasonable things that the American people simply want to have happen,” he said.

How exactly does the Attorney General of the United States feel that the passage of (or failure to pass) any given piece of legislation is the failure of his office? Is Eric Holder aware that his job is to uphold the laws of the land, not to pass them? Legislation is the purview of the Legislative branch (there’s a clue right there in the name, sport) and the only person in the Executive branch who needs to get directly involved is the President when he signs or vetoes bills.

Perhaps someone should have taken a moment back at the beginning of the administration and sat Eric Holder down with some old Schoolhouse Rocks tapes. (I’m just a bill, Yes, I’m only a bill, And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.) In an ideal world the Attorney General wouldn’t even have an opinion on any of the laws, say nothing of viewing himself as somehow having his fingers in the legislative pie. At most, the AG should be involved in suggesting the prioritizing of assets to best deploy limited law enforcement resources, but the laws are the laws. They are all passed by the elected representatives of the voters and his job is to enforce them whether he cares for them or not. (His boss could probably use a refresher course in that particular lesson as well.)

While I’m not hopeful about the fidelity of his replacement, the day of Eric Holder’s departure can’t come soon enough. I’ve had more than my fair share of complaints about the President over the past six years, but when the history books are written, Holder’s tenure as Attorney General may be seen as an even bigger disaster than the more well known shortcomings of the President.