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How Many Ethical Violations Does An Attorney General Get?

Recognizing that there is no getting around the egregious behavior of Eric Holder in the Marc Rich affair, Obama transition chief Tony Podesta offers the “one mistake rule” in defense of the unofficial nominee for Attorney General. Podesta concedes, unlike many other Democratic flacks, that Holder made “a mistake.” Nevertheless Podesta claims that “if we’re all held up to a one-mistake rule, I think probably no one would be serving in government.”

Hmm. Did we ever hear of this “rule” before? Not in any Republican confirmation hearing. And one wonder how severe a mistake it must be to be a disqualify one for a cabinet post. Does a breach of ethics count? Does fudging — that would be misleading — Congress about the extent of your inappropriate advice to a pardon applicant’s attorney count? Does currying favor with someone who might give you a job at the expense of fulfilling your own legal obligations? I suppose not — at least if you are a Democrat.

But of course the Marc Rich affair isn’t the only problem for Holder, which Podesta surely must know. There are, for starters, the other pardon scandals. Nevertheless Podesta, as a savvy political operative, knows that the Rich matter is the most problematic — easily understood, recollected by many voters and utterly indefensible. So if they can deflect criticism of that one with the “everyone gets a mistake” invention, they are that much closer to confirmation. (One imagines that they must be feeling some heat, perhaps unexpectedly so, to have already dreamed up this defense.)

Republicans should be clear. Not everyone deserves to be Attorney General. This is not just “serving in government.” This is the chief law enforcement officer in the country. Someone who committed multiple acts of dishonesty and unethical behavior (even if within the context of one pardon) simply should not be elevated to that high office. And if they want to get into the rest of Holder’s supposedly “stellar” record, where should we start — the FALN terrorist pardons or Elian Gonzales?



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