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The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

Holder was also known for his much-reported-on activism with the tony law firm Covington & Burling, which was suing the Bush administration on behalf of several terrorists being detained at Guantanamo. That was an especially unfortunate moral failing, given that Holder was already under a cloud for another Clinton-era ethical and moral lapse for engineering the blanket commutation of prison sentences of 16 violent FALN terrorists (murders, bombings, and terrorist acts) -- against the advice of the FBI and the federal attorneys who prosecuted such criminals. The Puerto Rican community, it was apparently thought, would be especially thankful to the Clintons and might display such gratitude in the forthcoming Hillary Clinton New York Senate election. Holder, in other words, was a consigliore, a fixer of the sort that Robert Duvall played in the Godfather movies.

But Holder’s sin is not that he was just an ideologue, but rather than he is also an abject opportunist -- the voice of social justice massaging a pardon for the Wall Street criminal who had endowed his boss so lavishly, the advocate preening about an unpopular Bush’s supposedly unjust Guantanamo who once had no problems with a popular Bush opening of the facility, or the man of the common people Gulfstreaming to a horse race on the public dime. So, too, Holder was always an entrepreneur about anti-terrorism: whatever the prevailing general consensus, then Holder was for it without regard for principle. In 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, when George W. Bush was enjoying record popularity levels, Holder did not care a whit about the idea of holding terrorist suspects in Guantanamo without affording them prisoner of war status. In a 2002 interview with CNN’s Paula Zahn, he intoned of the Gitmo detainees:

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohammed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not….Yes, and I think in a lot of ways that makes sense. I think they clearly do not fit within the prescriptions of the Geneva Convention. You have to remember that after World War II, as these protocols were being developed, there seemed to be widespread agreement that members of the French Resistance would not be considered prisoners of war if they had been captured. That being the case, it's hard for me to see how members of al Qaeda could be considered prisoners of war.

Before Holder, Al Sharpton was roundly derided as a particularly venomous race hustler whose cheap activism had led to riot and mayhem, a tax-cheat and -delinquent, and a vicious slanderer forever branded by the Tawana Brawley caper. It was Holder who judged Sharpton not on his character, but on his race and what his racial fire and brimstone might do politically for Holder’s boss, and therefore on occasion brought him into the White House as a key advisor on racial tensions that Sharpton himself had helped stir up.

Before Holder, Americans were coming to the point that they did not automatically prejudge interracial violence as a direct consequence of racial bigotry. But thanks to Holder, not so much now. Trayvon Martin could not just be a troubled teen who had an unfortunate rendezvous with an edgy Hispanic George Zimmermann that led to the armed latter having his head pounded, and then shooting to death his unarmed assailant. Instead, it was a ripe occasion to condemn the police and the establishment as intractably racist and in need of the sort of racial bromides Holder was so eager to prescribe.