The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

eric_holder_race_card_forward_big_9-28-14-1

Eric Holder’s left many baleful legacies: being censured by the House of Representatives; withholding subpoenaed documents, proving untruthful about a failed gun-walking caper in Mexico; failing to enforce laws on the books, from immigration to the elements of the Affordable Care Act; illegally billing the government for his own private use of a government Gulfstream jet; snooping on Associated Press reporters; giving de facto exemptions to renegade IRS politicos; and trying to create civilian trials for terrorist killers like KSM, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks. But he will be known mostly for re-teaching Americans to think of race as essential, not incidental, to our characters.

He accomplished that unfortunate legacy in a number of ways. Holder waded into the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown fatal shootings before all the facts were known in a manner no local public prosecutor would dare do so. He claimed that the unpopularity of Barack Obama was due to racial animosity, apparently forgetful that not long ago, in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, novels and movies were published and produced fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush, who was compared to Nazis and fascists, by everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn. I assume Holder was then quiet about such alarming disparagement of his president; and also I assume that when Obama in 2009 had near 70% approval ratings, for Holder the nation was anything but cowardly.

Of course, Holder infamously called Americans “cowards” for not being as obsessed in the same way with race as he was. He referred to African-Americans as “my people,” a sloppy aside that might have gotten any other attorney general fired for such cheap ethnic chauvinism -- except that his own boss had once called for Latinos to punish “our enemies” and on the campaign trail had talked of “typical white person.” Holder chose to drop the New Black Panther case in a way that highlighted racial matters -- apparently coming armed with clubs to a voting precinct is hardly unusual -- in the same way that he suggested that those states that might require an ID to vote (in the manner we produce IDs to write a check or use a credit card) were racist, in the same way that he suggested that states like Arizona that wanted federal immigration law enforced were acting out of racialist motives.

In other words, in the reprehensible vision of Eric Holder, how we look governs who we are. He either believes in the desirability of such racialist exceptionalism out of cultural and historic ignorance -- given the contemporary evidence of where bumper-sticker racial, ethnic and religious jingoism inevitably leads (cf. e.g., Iraq, Rwanda, the Congo, Serbia, Bosnia, etc.) -- or he cynically assumes that the more the country is polarized racially, the more elites like himself are called on to adjudicate differences, and thus advance to positions that they might otherwise not have earned either by their prior record or their present display of minimal competence.

I do not say that lightly. Holder, remember, prior to his ascension as attorney general, was largely known for two things, both bad: one, he navigated Bill Clinton’s disgraceful 11th hour pardon of the late felon Mark Rich (Rich was in theory facing a possible 300 years in prison for dozens of felonies [including trading with arch-enemy Iran, then holding U.S. hostages] when he bolted, escaped arrest and fled to Switzerland). Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder sidestepped a number of normal Justice Department procedures and failed to disclose that Rich’s wife (later divorced) had already given or would be likely to give $1 million to the Democratic Party, $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and nearly a half-million dollars to the Clinton presidential library. So much for social justice and the deplorable privilege of the elite.

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.

Michael Brown could not just be a strong-arm robber, who manhandled a clerk, stormed out with stolen goods high on marijuana, walked down the middle of a road, and then found himself in a violent and fatal encounter with a policeman, in which the unarmed suspect was killed and the armed policeman apparently battered -- and the facts of the confused case still to be adjudicated.  Instead, the Brown case, too, was a fertile occasion to exploit, proof that early-1960s-era Bull Connors still are with us -- and proof we need elites like Eric Holder to shield us from them. Ferguson, after all, was cited by the president in an oration to the United Nations that Americans can hardly blame others for bigotry and violence.

Eric Holder did his best to polarize America and confuse it about race. Interracial violence was to Holder de facto proof of racism -- but only sort of. There have been all sorts of depressing murders and disappearances in just the last month -- each with the potential to reach the Martin-Brown level of national obsession.

Sometimes a reserve officer used his weapon to shoot the suspect who did not have a firearm; sometimes the killer for some strange reason had been treated far too leniently and was let out on early parole to kill an innocent woman; sometimes the killer had a prior record of murdering and was never apprehended; and sometimes the murder suspect had a prior record of criminal activity that for some strange reason was never or only inadequately prosecuted. In all these cases, there was no editorializing by Holder about  the police or the nature of the crime or the failure of the system to deal with such barbaric and violent men before they again committed violent acts.

So this month Holder stayed mum when a young African-American Jesse Matthew Jr., with a past but apparently little scrutinized criminal record, was a prime suspect on the lam in the brutal killing of a University of Virginia white co-ed. So he was not interested in why a young African-American radical jihadist, Ali Brown, with a habit for prior killing, fatally shot an innocent white student in his Jeep on the way home. So he had no interest in why another African-American would-be jihadist and disaffected worker, Alton Nolen, let out early from parole, beheaded a white woman at work and tried to kill another victim.

Note how we cringe when I use freely now the distasteful buzzwords “white” and “African-American.” I emphasize the race of the victim and the assailant not because I believe that race was necessarily a prime motivation in any of these cases, much less that Holder should have commented on such lurid interracial crimes before they came to trial that made headlines, or that Americans should think race was necessarily vital in fathoming such barbarism, but because Eric Holder has set an example in this country to racially contextualize any interracial murder that might be massaged for his own political advantage, and to find some government or police agency, or society at large, as culpable for the violence. Race largely determines which interracial violent act the attorney general of the United States chooses to elevate to national political importance and to use for his larger political agendas.

The hypocrisy and demagogic manner in which Holder has done so may well teach other Americans to follow his reprehensible lead -- and that will be unfortunate given that rare interracial violent crime is currently a mostly politically incorrect and taboo topic. Reasonable and educated people are not supposed to notice the disparate statistical rate in which blacks attack whites -- at least until Eric Holder taught the country otherwise that race matters most in their lives and that they remain cowards should they not agree with him.