Sometimes politicians make the mistake of listening to their staff at their own peril. Eric Holder is making that mistake when it comes to some of the biggest scandals on his watch, such as the dismissal of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. Holder’s interview with Charlie Savage of the New York Times shows that he has adopted a dug-in partisan position instead of a cautious and reasoned one.
For an attorney general facing increased scrutiny from Congress, this partisan approach is damaging to the Department, and probably to Holder’s tenure as attorney general.
In the interview, Savage asks Holder about the New Black Panther dismissal. Despite the fact that the New Black Panthters were captured on video with weapons and fascist-style uniforms at the entrance to a polling place, Holder said: “There is no there, there.” Really? Heady stuff from the attorney general.
When asked about the fact that Holder’s Civil Rights Division is hostile to racially equal enforcement of the law from top to bottom, Holder again deploys another cliché, calling it a “made up controversy.” Holder doubled down: “All I have on my side with regard to that is the facts and the law.”
Maybe Holder has the facts and law on his side in Oz, but not in the United States of America. Holder would be well advised to retreat from this inflexible position. Too many stories, too many incidents are known by too many people. But maybe Holder’s flying monkeys aren’t too eager to tell him there is substance to the allegations — after all, they are part of the problem. Nor can the flying monkeys keep the facts bottled up forever.
Or more likely, Holder knows full well the truth of the allegations, but agrees with the efforts of his flying monkeys to impose a vision of civil rights enforcement that doesn’t protect everyone, but only protects Holder’s political allies.
Holder is gambling that enough people will react with partisan loyalty to disbelieve the allegations of unequal law enforcement, and enough of the rest of the public can be tricked to buy peace. But truth has a funny way of floating to the surface, even if it takes time. That’s a gamble Holder doesn’t want to take. The bodies always surface.