President Obama’s supporters should hope Attorney General Eric Holder resigns. His embarrassing tenure has given Republicans a potent symbol of leftist extremism combined with comic incompetence. This nasty blend is symbolic of the entire administration, as shattered expectations of moderation and competence played a significant role in the midterm tsunami.
Some would certainly like to see the festering mess at the Justice Department continue through 2011. But I know firsthand how the resignation of an attorney general can help rejuvenate both the DOJ and the White House.
I was at the Department of Justice when the bumbling saga of Alberto Gonzales finally ended. Gonzales, attacked by fiercely partisan Democrats over the phony U.S. attorney scandal, meekly accepted the arguments of his foes and surrendered on every point. As Jonah Goldberg wrote at the time:
Gonzales was a piñata for Democrats; bash him from any angle and you got a prize.
Instead of exiting the stage, Gonzales abandoned loyal subordinates to escape personal responsibility for the public relations disaster. One wonders what inept lawyer-strategist was giving him advice. Hopefully that individual is forever far removed from Republican politics. Wild attacking dogs chase whatever flees — only facing the enemy and fighting for your life works inside the Beltway. Bill Clinton knew this well.
It was easy to predict how Alberto Gonzales’ reign would end: once he accepted the complaints of his mortal enemies and sought to placate them, his tenure was sure to unravel, and so it did. As the quisling era of Alberto Gonzales faded into the Michael Mukasey era, the Department of Justice was rejuvenated. General Mukasey implemented a series of steps to put the past in the past. Relief spread across the Department when Gonzales resigned.
Defenders of President Obama should pay attention. No matter how difficult it is for them to toss Eric Holder overboard, the deed must be done. Otherwise, Holder’s incompetence and radicalism will fuel the run-up to the next presidential election. Obama needs the measured integrity of his own Michael Mukasey to help win re-election.
The problems with Holder’s tenure are so numerous it is hard to know where to start.
When Eric Holder visited the Voting Section at DOJ in March 2009, a circus followed, which I have written about here at PJM. The racialist Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King stood in front of Holder and the entire Voting Section and announced how every day she beams with pride “because two black men are running the country.” Had an announcement of this sort been made at a Winn-Dixie staff meeting during the Clinton administration, the very same Loretta King would have been engineering a lawsuit against the grocer.
Did Attorney General Holder reprimand Loretta King for her inappropriate racial comments? Or worse, would he defend her comments? Congress can ask him in oversight hearings, unless wiser Democrats decide it is time for Eric Holder to go before that.
Loretta King is the same incompetent partisan involved in dismissing the slam-dunk voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. King also once told another assembled section in the Civil Rights Division that she was a proud beneficiary of affirmative action. You’d never guess.
King’s blame has diminished over the last few months, however, as records have emerged through a Judicial Watch lawsuit. They prove top level presidential appointees at Justice were driving the New Black Panther dismissal, not career attorneys disagreeing with career attorneys — as we heard under oath. Even so, King — devout defender of the New Black Panther dismissal — couldn’t accept the notion that blacks could be defendants in a civil rights case, and still doesn’t.
Eric Holder could have overruled King and the other presidential appointees. He could have ordered the lawyers to get a stiff remedy against the anti-Semitic New Black Panthers. But he didn’t. Why didn’t he? Did the attorney general agree with the positions being advocated by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli? Did the White House give instructions? More questions Congress can ask Holder, if he is still around.
If that isn’t enough for reasonable Democrats to throw Holder overboard, consider three words: civilian terrorist trials.
Holder is a national security disaster. His policies make it more likely that Americans will suffer another devastating attack. Holder’s Justice Department has imposed higher evidentiary burdens on itself in terror matters than even the federal courts have required. Holder has also given a central role to State Department nuts like Harold Koh to formulate terror policy deep inside the Justice Department. From reading Miranda rights to battlefield captures in Afghanistan, to short-circuiting the interrogation of the underwear bomber in Detroit, Holder’s policies may be an electoral disaster for Democrats in 2012.
It’s one thing to scale back Bush-era terror policies, but to American voters, it’s quite another to adopt the ideology of the lunatic fringe that Koh represents. Holder has intentionally done the latter.
Congress can ask Holder at his next oversight hearing if Harold Koh will preserve his central role in formulating internal Justice Department national security policy.
Yet another disaster on Holder’s watch was the enforcement of military voting rights in 2010. It became a comedy of incompetence. (PJM has extensively covered the mess, including here and here and here.) Justice bureaucrats responsible for protecting military voting rights failed to enforce the requirement that ballots be mailed out 45 days before the election because they disagreed with the congressional mandate. They believed that 30 days was enough time, and even if it wasn’t, ballots mailed late could simply be tallied after the election. Never mind that Congress explicitly rejected this solution.
The DOJ failed to sue states for weeks or months after non-compliance was discovered. PJM broke news of noncompliance in places the DOJ didn’t even know about. Most outrageous of all, the responsible bureaucrats think the criticism of their incompetence is unfair.
An angry Senator John Cornyn blocked Deputy Attorney General James Cole because of this disaster, and rightfully so.
Congress can ask Holder why no heads have rolled over military voting failures. If nobody is fired by the time Holder next testifies, Congress can seek the names of the officials responsible for the mess and subpoena them to testify. Congress can ask Holder why he didn’t overrule these bureaucrats and order immediate lawsuits when non-compliance was discovered in August, and earlier. Congress can ask why these bureaucrats failed to reply to the Pentagon’s request for assistance to give states guidance to implement the new law. Military voters and their families who lost their right deserve answers.
It will be a nasty experience for the administration if Holder is on the firing line. Wiser Democrats should ensure he isn’t.