Commentary Magazine


Topic: attorney general of the United States

Because Obama Wants Him To

Wanting to know how Eric Holder “become the most destructive member of Barack Obama’s Cabinet,” Michael Gerson recounts:

Holder launched his tenure by showing disdain for the work of career federal prosecutors when it fit his ideological predispositions. In 2004, a task force from the Eastern District of Virginia investigated allegations of misconduct against the CIA and found insufficient evidence of criminal conduct or intent. Holder ignored the views of these respected prosecutors and appointed his own special prosecutor, appeasing a political constituency that wanted the CIA to be hounded and punished. As a result, morale at a front-line agency in the war on terrorism has plunged. What possible reason could a bright, ambitious intelligence professional have to pursue a career in counterterrorism when the attorney general of the United States is stubbornly intent on exposing and undermining his colleagues?

Then he topped it off by shipping five of the 9/11 conspirators for civilian trial “in a circus atmosphere, with an uncertain chain of evidence (gathered on a battlefield), under a cloud of torture allegations that Holder himself has encouraged.” Rightly citing Holder’s rationale (some nonexistent PR benefit in exchange for risks to U.S. national security) as “memorable for its incoherence,” Gerson concludes: “Whatever his initial assurances, Holder does not believe America is at war with terrorists. Even worse, he seems determined to undermine those who do.”

I concur with every word, but let’s get real here. The way Holder got to be the “most destructive” member of the Cabinet is by Obama putting him there — it is the president who has allowed him to make this series of harebrained decisions. Do we really think Holder does all of this over the objections of the White House? Obama is entirely within his rights to call off Holder or fire him if he doesn’t like the war on the CIA and doesn’t want KSM and other terrorists to make a mockery of the U.S. Justice system. He can tell Holder not to make national-security policy by employing lawyers at the Justice Department who used to represent Guantanamo detainees (yes, he’s done that too). Obama could order heads to roll, including Holder’s, for dismissing an egregious case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party (let’s not forget that one). And if Holder refuses? Obama is president and can replace him.

So the proper question is not whether Holder believes we are at war and seeks to undermine those who do, but whether the president does. Based on everything we’ve seen the answer is not reassuring.

Wanting to know how Eric Holder “become the most destructive member of Barack Obama’s Cabinet,” Michael Gerson recounts:

Holder launched his tenure by showing disdain for the work of career federal prosecutors when it fit his ideological predispositions. In 2004, a task force from the Eastern District of Virginia investigated allegations of misconduct against the CIA and found insufficient evidence of criminal conduct or intent. Holder ignored the views of these respected prosecutors and appointed his own special prosecutor, appeasing a political constituency that wanted the CIA to be hounded and punished. As a result, morale at a front-line agency in the war on terrorism has plunged. What possible reason could a bright, ambitious intelligence professional have to pursue a career in counterterrorism when the attorney general of the United States is stubbornly intent on exposing and undermining his colleagues?

Then he topped it off by shipping five of the 9/11 conspirators for civilian trial “in a circus atmosphere, with an uncertain chain of evidence (gathered on a battlefield), under a cloud of torture allegations that Holder himself has encouraged.” Rightly citing Holder’s rationale (some nonexistent PR benefit in exchange for risks to U.S. national security) as “memorable for its incoherence,” Gerson concludes: “Whatever his initial assurances, Holder does not believe America is at war with terrorists. Even worse, he seems determined to undermine those who do.”

I concur with every word, but let’s get real here. The way Holder got to be the “most destructive” member of the Cabinet is by Obama putting him there — it is the president who has allowed him to make this series of harebrained decisions. Do we really think Holder does all of this over the objections of the White House? Obama is entirely within his rights to call off Holder or fire him if he doesn’t like the war on the CIA and doesn’t want KSM and other terrorists to make a mockery of the U.S. Justice system. He can tell Holder not to make national-security policy by employing lawyers at the Justice Department who used to represent Guantanamo detainees (yes, he’s done that too). Obama could order heads to roll, including Holder’s, for dismissing an egregious case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party (let’s not forget that one). And if Holder refuses? Obama is president and can replace him.

So the proper question is not whether Holder believes we are at war and seeks to undermine those who do, but whether the president does. Based on everything we’ve seen the answer is not reassuring.

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