A Princeton history professor makes an interesting point on Eric Holder and the Marc Rich affair:
Democrats need to bring up the issue. For many years now, Democrats have been criticizing the Bush administration for being aggressive, if not abusive, in the use of executive power. They have also been critical of Republicans for not being cautious when dealing with conflict-of-interest issues. If Democrats put the pardon issue aside to get the nominee through, they will start off on a wrong foot. This does not mean it should hold up the appointment, but Democrats have an obligation to take the issue seriously and find out exactly what his role was in the decision.
As any good attorney knows if you have a problematic witness you want to get out the “bad stuff” on direct examination, so it doesn’t appear as if the other side is scoring point in the cross-examination. It might therefore behoove the Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee to ask some tough questions. They can start with today’s New York Times column, and ask about those fifteen contacts Holder had with Rich’s attorney. Then they might proceed to ask why Holder pled ignorance of the details of the situation when questioned by the House Committee in 2001.
That might be a savvy tactical move. As the professor suggests, it would give at least the appearance of concern that the Attorney General be — what’s the word the Democrats love — “independent.” Perhaps Chuck Schumer might do the honors. It was he, you recall, who focused on this very issue when another Attorney General was at issue:
[T]he Justice Department is different than any other department. In every other department, the chief cabinet officer is supposed to follow the president’s orders, request, without exception.
But the Justice Department has a higher responsibility: rule of law and the Constitution. And Attorney General Gonzales in his department has been even more political than his predecessor, Attorney General Ashcroft.
Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man. But he either doesn’t accept or doesn’t understand that he is no longer just the president’s lawyer, but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution, even when the president should not want it to be so.
Well said, Senator.