It is beginning to appear that President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Eric Holder as Attorney General is going to become a classic conservative-liberal split, with conservatives opposing him and liberals offering their support. In what is now appearing to be the staffing of the third Clinton Administration, Holder’s nomination is likely to be the most controversial.
On these pages, Roger Kimball has already linked to NRO’s important editorial citing the evidence indicating that Holder is “a conventional, check-the-boxes creature of the Left.” Holder, they point out, supported hate crime legislation, affirmative action and the interference with prosecutions by charging police departments with making arrests by racial profiling. Most important of all was his work in the last minute pardon of Marc Rich by Bill Clinton, made right before he left office as President.
Not only did Holder carry out an end-run around the standard pardon process, he did the same when it came to advising Clinton to pardon terrorists. Clinton commuted the sentence of 16 Puerto Rican members of the FALN, including those who had tried to kill President Harry S. Truman at Blair House. As the National Review editors note, these pardons were meant to help Hillary Clinton in her Senate race in New York City, because it would cement her ability to get the Puerto Rican vote.
But Clinton also pardoned two members of the Weather Underground, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans, who were serving long terms for bombings of American government facilities. Had Bill Ayers been in jail too, and not managed to avoid prosecution, he undoubtedly would also have received a pardon.
Now, on the website of The New Republic, their legal editor and prominent law school professor, Jeffrey Rosen, endorses Holden as a first-rate choice who “has impeccable credentials as a tough-on-crime prosecutor and superior court judge appointed by Ronald Reagan.” The information that he was a Reagan appointment is meant to show Holder’s bi-partisanship. Rosen does not comment in his web posting on any of the issues discussed by NRO’s editors. Instead, he cites his support of Clinton’s program to hire 100,000 more police officers, and his support of “community prosecution and community outreach programs” to connect prosecutors with the citizens they serve. And he notes that Holder will also question “the racially discriminatory impact of some sentencing policies;” which could mean if read correctly that valid sentences could be reduced or thrown out on dubious grounds.
Is Holder really, as Rosen argues, the man who will resurrect Justice “as an institution above politics?” Rosen has a point when he talks about Alberto Gonzales having wrecked impartiality at the Department and a need to restore “the professionalism of prosecutors.” But is the man who helped pardon Marc Rich and members of the FALN and the Weather Underground the man to accomplish these aims? Somehow, I do not share Rosen’s confidence that under Holder, decisions will be made “on the merits rather than for partisan reasons.”