Commentary Magazine


Topic: sloppy lawyer

Holder’s Just a Political Dunce, You See

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

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