Belmont Club

The End of Eric Holder

Eric Holder has suddenly announced his retirement, declaring it was time to rebuild trust between police and minorities. USA Today writes: “Holder has expressed no specific plans for retirement. But after visiting Ferguson, Missouri last month, he told friends and colleagues he wants to help rebuild trust between police and minority communities.” The attorney general said he would stay on until his successor was confirmed.

The word “Ferguson” came up in another context recently. President Obama, speaking at the UN to seek support to fight ISIS in the world, compared that evil to Ferguson as well:

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri — where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

Ferguson is more than a small town; it is now a political bomb shelter. Both Holder and Obama are running for cover in the only place they know to hide, for a storm is now fairly upon them. The new Iraqi prime minister announced the existence of an ISIS plot to attack subways in New York and Paris. Foreign Policy writes that “a bad moon is rising.” David Rothkopf says that behind the president’s confident words at the UN, the panic and disarray was palpable.  Obama is trying to minimize a crisis that if anything is going to grow:

But offstage, the discussions about all these issues had a dramatically different tone. It was doubtful and largely pessimistic.

When Obama spoke of dismantling IS’s “network of death,” regional diplomats worried anew that he was overly focused on one terrorist group when they saw the problem as rapidly spreading violent extremism, a threat not just in Iraq and Syria but stretching from Mali to Nigeria to the Horn of Africa, from Libya to Egypt to Gaza to Syria and Iraq, from the Gulf to Afghanistan, Pakistan to China. They worried the U.S. president who was touting his own progress combatting al Qaeda had failed to realize that in overly focusing on one group he opened the door to a spread and proliferation of terror threats that made extremism far more prevalent and dangerous today than at any time in history. Obama spoke of tackling extremism but described it as a generational threat that the people of the region or “the civilized peoples of this world” must combat over time. To one listener from a country burdened by refugees from the war in Syria, this was “a sign that he thought this was too big a problem to deal with, that he was pushing it off into the future.” Another Arab diplomat said to me, “The president is trying to win by defining the problem as narrowly as possible. It makes it more manageable.”

But ISIS is just the tip of iceberg. Obama is facing comprehensive catastrophe in the Middle East. Obama’s Arab backers, writes the Daily Beast, may draw him deeper into the flames, and in particular into the divisions between the rulers and their restive subjects:

The backing from Gulf countries for the military intervention against militants of the so-called Islamic State in northern Syria, far from helping the United States in the battle for hearts and minds, may actually be hurting Washington in the region. And the reasons for that suggest just how densely complicated the Mideast quagmire has become.

While the participation of the super-rich Gulf monarchies in a coalition against the group widely known as ISIS or ISIL may help with some moderate Muslims, and may reassure European leaders, among those Islamists inside and outside Syria who are at the core of the opposition to President Bashar al Assad this development is viewed with deep suspicion.

Even Democrats, writes Neil Macdonald of CBC News, don’t know where Obama is going with this. Tom Friedman, who is a bellweather of the inner weathers if nothing else, basically says that Obama can’t win against ISIS. Not, that is, without repudiating himself root and branch. And not without getting smack dab in the midst of the Islamic civil war:

The tension arises because ISIS is a killing machine, and it will take another killing machine to search it out and destroy it on the ground. There is no way the “moderate” Syrians we’re training can alone fight ISIS and the Syrian regime at the same time. Iraqis, Turkey and the nearby Arab states will have to also field troops.

After all, this is a civil war for the future of both Sunni Islam and the Arab world. We can degrade ISIS from the air — I’m glad we have hit these ISIS psychopaths in Syria — but only Arabs and Turks can destroy ISIS on the ground. Right now, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stands for authoritarianism, press intimidation, crony capitalism and quiet support for Islamists, including ISIS. He won’t even let us use our base in Turkey to degrade ISIS from the air. What’s in his soul? What’s in the soul of the Arab regimes who are ready to join us in bombing ISIS in Syria, but rule out ground troops?

Deval Patrick, asked if he would take Holder’s now vacant position, said “no thanks.” The Los Angeles Times asks if the president can get anybody — anybody at all — past a Senate confirmation hearing in the current political atmosphere. It’s like the job’s radioactive. The desperation of the situation was underlined when Al Sharpton announced his organization was helping the president find a replacement for Holder:

Rev. Al Sharpton said his civil rights organisation, the National Action Network, is “engaged in immediate conversations” with the White House as they work to name a successor to Attorney General Eric Holder, who is set to announce his resignation Thursday afternoon.

“We are engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder,” Sharpton said.

It all seems, as they used to say, strictly from hunger. Obama’s presidency is in ruins. Holder is heading for the hills. The only question: can he reach the safety of a “we can overcome” chorus before the terrible wave of consequences overtakes him?


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