Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eric Holder

Trayvon, Texas, and Voter ID

Attorney General Eric Holder never uttered the words “Trayvon Martin” or “George Zimmerman” in his remarks today at the convention of the Urban League in Philadelphia. But his address, in which he vowed to impose “preclearance” procedures on the state of Texas in order to prevent it from making any changes in voting procedures without the express permission of the Department of Justice, must be viewed in the context of a liberal drive to take advantage of the “conversation” on race that so many on the left have urged upon the country in the aftermath of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Holder’s actions are primarily a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act while mandating that Congress redraw the map that determines which jurisdictions must get advance permission from the DOJ without the latter having to go to court first, rather than merely going by the outdated one drawn up in 1965. But there’s little doubt that Holder and the left are hoping the hysteria that race merchants like Al Sharpton have helped stir up in the last two weeks will help them turn public opinion on the question of voter ID laws that are at the heart of the federal attack on Texas.

The Martin case has been cited by many liberals who have sought to argue that the Court’s majority was somehow wrong to rule that the America of 2013 is nothing like the one that existed in 1965. The tone of much of the commentary from the left, including that of President Obama on the Zimmerman case, has been to insist that for all of the obvious progress made, the death of Martin proves we are essentially no better off in terms of racism that we were in the pre-Voting Rights Act era. But like the post-trial discussion that ignored the actual facts of the trial, Holder’s assertion that voter ID laws are, by definition, proof of discrimination is not only disingenuous; it’s flat out false.

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Attorney General Eric Holder never uttered the words “Trayvon Martin” or “George Zimmerman” in his remarks today at the convention of the Urban League in Philadelphia. But his address, in which he vowed to impose “preclearance” procedures on the state of Texas in order to prevent it from making any changes in voting procedures without the express permission of the Department of Justice, must be viewed in the context of a liberal drive to take advantage of the “conversation” on race that so many on the left have urged upon the country in the aftermath of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Holder’s actions are primarily a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act while mandating that Congress redraw the map that determines which jurisdictions must get advance permission from the DOJ without the latter having to go to court first, rather than merely going by the outdated one drawn up in 1965. But there’s little doubt that Holder and the left are hoping the hysteria that race merchants like Al Sharpton have helped stir up in the last two weeks will help them turn public opinion on the question of voter ID laws that are at the heart of the federal attack on Texas.

The Martin case has been cited by many liberals who have sought to argue that the Court’s majority was somehow wrong to rule that the America of 2013 is nothing like the one that existed in 1965. The tone of much of the commentary from the left, including that of President Obama on the Zimmerman case, has been to insist that for all of the obvious progress made, the death of Martin proves we are essentially no better off in terms of racism that we were in the pre-Voting Rights Act era. But like the post-trial discussion that ignored the actual facts of the trial, Holder’s assertion that voter ID laws are, by definition, proof of discrimination is not only disingenuous; it’s flat out false.

The attorney general’s decision to go to court against Texas gives the lie to much of the fulminations from the administration about the decision in Shelby v. Holder. Far from easing the way toward a new era of Jim Crow, the court reaffirmed the Voting Rights Act’s safeguards against discrimination but merely said that the DOJ could not preempt the judicial process without a necessary re-write of the act based on the realities of contemporary America rather than one based on the situation in 1965. Thus, Holder is perfectly free to sue in federal court to stop Texas from doing anything he deems discriminatory.

But, like the incendiary rhetoric that sought to indict “Stand Your Ground” laws after Zimmerman’s acquittal as being a license for shooting down innocent young black men, Holder’s claim that Texas’s drawing of voter districts discriminates against Hispanics is unfounded. But the big prize here is his bid to prevent any state from requiring voters to identify themselves at the polls.

In an era when it has become easier to register, including at the polls on election days and where mail-in and absentee ballots have become commonplace, voter fraud has become easier, necessitating measures to ensure the integrity of results. The vast majority of Americans, including African-Americans, believe there is nothing wrong, let alone discriminatory, about asking voters to identify themselves in the same manner that they must to conduct virtually any other transaction with the government or business. Voter ID laws are a commonsense measure that are as easy to comply with as it is to register to vote. But liberals and race baiters have sought to make them the lever by which they can convince the country that racism is alive and well.

Like the Martin case, the discussion about voting rights is about assumptions about race that have little to do with facts. Trayvon Martin has been transformed from a troubled youth who died in a confusing fight to a martyr because civil rights groups and others that seek to profit from the focus on race need him to symbolize their effort to persuade America that nothing has changed since 1965. The same is true of Holder’s rant about Texas and voter ID. The courts should dismiss this claim just as decisively as the Zimmerman jury rejected a murder charge.

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The Leak Inquisition and Press Freedom

The United States has a right to protect secrets. Though President Obama often speaks as if the West is not still locked in a life-and-death struggle with Islamist terrorists, the security needs of this nation are still considerable and require discretion on the part of those entrusted with them. But even those who honor the notion that the public does not need to know every bit of classified information in the possession of the government should be alarmed at the willingness of the administration to act as if leaking is the primary threat to the rule of law. The alarming nature of the Department of Justice’s jihad against the press was made all too clear early this year when news of the government’s spying on Associated Press reporters and Fox News correspondent James Rosen was revealed. But if a federal appellate court ruling issued last week stands, the problem may be far worse than we thought.

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia decided that New York Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a former CIA official accused of leaking information that was allegedly used to help write a 2006 book. Doing so would not just violate Risen’s pledge not to reveal his sources but would constitute a major infringement of press freedom that could have serious consequences for the future of American democracy. While the right to shield sources is not absolute, by ruling in this manner, the Fourth Circuit could be establishing a precedent that will make it impossible not just to pursue investigative journalism, which relies on confidential sources, but for news gathering organizations to conduct any sort of scrutiny of the intelligence and defense establishment. Though this ruling has not gotten a fraction of the coverage accorded to the AP and Rosen scandals, it is potentially more far-reaching in its scope. For once, I agree with the Times editorial column which rightly says today that this ruling should be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The United States has a right to protect secrets. Though President Obama often speaks as if the West is not still locked in a life-and-death struggle with Islamist terrorists, the security needs of this nation are still considerable and require discretion on the part of those entrusted with them. But even those who honor the notion that the public does not need to know every bit of classified information in the possession of the government should be alarmed at the willingness of the administration to act as if leaking is the primary threat to the rule of law. The alarming nature of the Department of Justice’s jihad against the press was made all too clear early this year when news of the government’s spying on Associated Press reporters and Fox News correspondent James Rosen was revealed. But if a federal appellate court ruling issued last week stands, the problem may be far worse than we thought.

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia decided that New York Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a former CIA official accused of leaking information that was allegedly used to help write a 2006 book. Doing so would not just violate Risen’s pledge not to reveal his sources but would constitute a major infringement of press freedom that could have serious consequences for the future of American democracy. While the right to shield sources is not absolute, by ruling in this manner, the Fourth Circuit could be establishing a precedent that will make it impossible not just to pursue investigative journalism, which relies on confidential sources, but for news gathering organizations to conduct any sort of scrutiny of the intelligence and defense establishment. Though this ruling has not gotten a fraction of the coverage accorded to the AP and Rosen scandals, it is potentially more far-reaching in its scope. For once, I agree with the Times editorial column which rightly says today that this ruling should be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Compelling Risen to testify in what is, after all, a criminal trial, may not seem unreasonable to those who are justifiably angry about the way classified information seems to be flowing from the government via WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and countless other examples of leaking, especially those with a political axe to grind. But while prosecuting leakers is justifiable, the government’s effort to criminalize journalism is not.

Attorney General Eric Holder was widely and rightly criticized for the Department of Justice’s outrageous description of Rosen as a “co-conspirator” along with a government employee in the crime of disclosing classified information. Journalists are not above the law, but in order to do their jobs they must have the right to speak to government officials and not be treated as felons for normal interactions with sources. Since the furor over DOJ’s wrongful conduct in the Rosen case, Holder has issued guidelines for dealing with the press to prosecutors that will supposedly ensure that this sort of unjustified snooping won’t be repeated. But the Fourth Circuit has seemingly given a seal of approval to prosecutorial abuses that are just as bad as the conduct Holder sought to abolish.

A government that makes it next to impossible for investigative journalism to thrive is not one that has a thriving free press. If Holder and his boss President Obama are truly serious about press freedom and putting this scandal to rest, they will save the high court the trouble of overruling the Fourth Circuit, and quash Risen’s subpoena immediately. Government secrets are important, but not more important than preserving the First Amendment.

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Wyden’s Stunt Was Congress at its Worst

On the face of it what happened in March was an example of everything that is wrong with government. When asked a straightforward question about whether the government collects data on millions of Americans, the director of national intelligence said the answer was no. In the wake of the revelation of the PRISM program that we know involves the capture of such data, James Clapper’s answer to Senator Ron Wyden’s question appears to be a big fat lie for which the DNI should pay with his job. Clapper’s deception seems to be just one more instance of governmental misbehavior along with Benghazi, the IRS scandal and the Justice Department’s spying on the Associated Press and Fox News. His dishonest answer is seen by many as little different from Attorney General Eric Holder’s lie when he was asked whether the government contemplated prosecutions of journalists even though he had already signed off on a court document in which Fox News’s James Rosen was labeled a “co-conspirator” and a flight risk.

But though I have little sympathy for Clapper, whose policy positions on the Islamist threat are highly questionable, lumping him together with Holder would not be fair. Far from being an honest probe into what the government was doing, it’s actually yet another example of how congressional grandstanding does the country little good. Wyden, who was already well briefed on PRISM and other intelligence operations, already knew the answer to the question when he asked it. But he also knew that it would have been inappropriate, if not illegal, for Clapper to answer the question honestly since doing so would have required him to publicly reveal highly classified information that ought not to be made available to America’s enemies. Wyden’s purpose wasn’t to shed light but to merely embarrass Clapper and the administration.

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On the face of it what happened in March was an example of everything that is wrong with government. When asked a straightforward question about whether the government collects data on millions of Americans, the director of national intelligence said the answer was no. In the wake of the revelation of the PRISM program that we know involves the capture of such data, James Clapper’s answer to Senator Ron Wyden’s question appears to be a big fat lie for which the DNI should pay with his job. Clapper’s deception seems to be just one more instance of governmental misbehavior along with Benghazi, the IRS scandal and the Justice Department’s spying on the Associated Press and Fox News. His dishonest answer is seen by many as little different from Attorney General Eric Holder’s lie when he was asked whether the government contemplated prosecutions of journalists even though he had already signed off on a court document in which Fox News’s James Rosen was labeled a “co-conspirator” and a flight risk.

But though I have little sympathy for Clapper, whose policy positions on the Islamist threat are highly questionable, lumping him together with Holder would not be fair. Far from being an honest probe into what the government was doing, it’s actually yet another example of how congressional grandstanding does the country little good. Wyden, who was already well briefed on PRISM and other intelligence operations, already knew the answer to the question when he asked it. But he also knew that it would have been inappropriate, if not illegal, for Clapper to answer the question honestly since doing so would have required him to publicly reveal highly classified information that ought not to be made available to America’s enemies. Wyden’s purpose wasn’t to shed light but to merely embarrass Clapper and the administration.

Edward Snowden’s leak about the existence and purpose of PRISM made sure that Wyden’s questioning of Clapper would become a major story, thus giving the Oregon senator the prize he sought. As the clip of Clapper’s lie is shown in a seemingly endless loop on the cable news stations, Wyden is back in the spotlight posturing about the need for “straight talk” from the administration. But the senator, who has carefully built up a reputation as a sober advocate of civil liberties, is the one who is being disingenuous, not Clapper.

Clapper’s attempts to wriggle out of the corner into which Wyden put him are laughable. The attempts to parse his answer to Wyden’s question as being technically truthful don’t work and he should stop trying to claim that he didn’t lie. But a dispassionate view of these circumstances shows that there are times when honesty is not always the best policy.

As guardian of the nation’s secrets, Clapper’s first duty is to ensure that efforts to combat Islamist terror are protected. Whether one likes PRISM or not—and count me among those who regard efforts to depict it as an Orwellian scheme as wrongheaded—the whole purpose of the program would have been undermined had it been made public. Wyden’s goal that day was not to elicit information so much as it was to force Clapper to choose between trashing a legal and necessary security measure and to lie. Though he must have hated doing it—something that showed up clearly in his body language as he told the lie—I can’t blame him for sacrificing his own credibility in order to protect a national secret.

Unlike Holder, who had no security or policy reason to lie about his targeting of James Rosen when he lied to Congress about that issue, Clapper was faced with a real dilemma and probably chose the lesser of two evils.

The real culprit that day was Wyden, who used the bully pulpit of a Senate committee hearing to create a sound byte. His pious declamations about his goals notwithstanding, by asking that question in public, he was seeking to trash a measure that by all accounts has been helpful in defending the nation. Like so many senators and members of Congress who have used hearings to posture more than legislate, Wyden’s question was pure theater. Rather than this episode being an example of administration misconduct, it was actually one that illustrated what happens when a senator gets the chance to grandstand in front of a television camera.

Whatever we may think of Clapper, he doesn’t deserve the opprobrium he has been getting on this issue. If anyone deserves our disdain here it is the senator who placed his ideological agenda ahead of the country’s national security needs.

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West Wing Throws Holder Under the Bus

Liberals and Democrats have been doing their best to stonewall calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but apparently some of those serving in the office of his boss aren’t as much in love with him as some of his defenders elsewhere. That’s the only way to interpret the astonishing quotes from West Wing officials in yesterday’s front-page feature on Holder in the Sunday New York Times. Leaks from sources in the Obama White House to the Times are a staple of contemporary journalism, even though they are not likely to generate investigations even when highly classified information concerning security is involved. But what was so interesting about this latest story is the way some of the Times‘s usual sources dished on Holder yesterday:

While the White House publicly backed Mr. Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately tell associates they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit. But the latest attacks may stiffen the administration’s resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics.

Democrats continue to regard Republican attacks on Holder as reason enough to support him, but the notion that everyone inside the administration is thrilled with his performance is obviously an exaggeration at best. Though liberals continue to deny that he committed perjury when he testified before the House of Representatives and denied knowing about potential prosecutions of journalists—a statement that failed to take into account his role in the investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen—the White House leaks show Holder is unlikely to survive in office for long.

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Liberals and Democrats have been doing their best to stonewall calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but apparently some of those serving in the office of his boss aren’t as much in love with him as some of his defenders elsewhere. That’s the only way to interpret the astonishing quotes from West Wing officials in yesterday’s front-page feature on Holder in the Sunday New York Times. Leaks from sources in the Obama White House to the Times are a staple of contemporary journalism, even though they are not likely to generate investigations even when highly classified information concerning security is involved. But what was so interesting about this latest story is the way some of the Times‘s usual sources dished on Holder yesterday:

While the White House publicly backed Mr. Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately tell associates they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit. But the latest attacks may stiffen the administration’s resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics.

Democrats continue to regard Republican attacks on Holder as reason enough to support him, but the notion that everyone inside the administration is thrilled with his performance is obviously an exaggeration at best. Though liberals continue to deny that he committed perjury when he testified before the House of Representatives and denied knowing about potential prosecutions of journalists—a statement that failed to take into account his role in the investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen—the White House leaks show Holder is unlikely to survive in office for long.

As the Times story suggests, Holder’s long tenure despite a series of disasters that included the Fast and Furious scandal as well as the revelations about the Department of Justice’s snooping on the Associated Press and Fox News is purely a function of having friends in high places. In Holder’s case that means Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett and her good friend Michelle Obama, who also happens to be pals with Holder’s wife. The president also likes Holder and that, and only that, has kept him in place despite the public relations disaster that has unfolded in recent weeks.

Any other Cabinet official that lied to Congress and then spoke of “regrets” to the Daily Beast in the same week as he tried to get the press to make nice with him in off-the-record meetings would be widely thought of as having one foot on a banana peel and another out the door. But with three aces like that in his hand, Holder may be under no real pressure to resign. That’s why some deep thinkers in the West Wing have realized that despite the loyalty felt toward Holder by the boss and the most powerful women in the administration, he is a clear liability that is helping to mire the president’s second term in scandal.

The West Wing leakers are right about Holder’s problems.

“The White House is apoplectic about him, and has been for a long time,” said a Democratic former government official who did not want to be identified while talking about friends.

Some advisers to Mr. Obama believe that Mr. Holder does not manage or foresee problems, the former official said. “How hard would it be to anticipate that The A.P. would be unhappy?” the former official said. “And then they haven’t defended their position.”

But, of course, Holder’s problems go a lot deeper than a lack of PR expertise. Holder’s lies about the Rosen investigation help feed the public’s frustration with the administration’s incompetence that flows from the Benghazi and IRS scandals. But they are also a sign of a department of Justice that is out of control and a leader with a credibility problem.

Democrats may be confident that the last of month of scandals will eventually calm down and that most Americans won’t care that much about them in the long run. But so long as Eric Holder remains in office, it’s going to be difficult for the administration to turn the page. Holder serves at the pleasure of the president, and so long as Obama sticks with him he need not resign, even as he is raked over the coals for his mendacity before Congress. But the cracks in the heretofore solid wall of administration defense of Holder shows that even he knows it’s only a matter of time before he packs it in.

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Holder Should Resign, but Obama Is the Problem

A prediction: there will be an effort by Team Obama to rally around Eric Holder, but before too long he will resign as attorney general. He’ll do so because he’s doing considerable, even durable, damage to the president–and the president, well-versed in the Chicago Way, will jettison Holder if he determines it’s in his political interest.

It is.

The attorney general is being criticized, and being urged to resign, from those on both the left and the right. The House of Representative is considering looking into whether Mr. Holder committed perjury (he clearly misled Congress on his role in the James Rosen matter). And in the background of all this is the fact that Holder is a man of unusual incompetence.

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A prediction: there will be an effort by Team Obama to rally around Eric Holder, but before too long he will resign as attorney general. He’ll do so because he’s doing considerable, even durable, damage to the president–and the president, well-versed in the Chicago Way, will jettison Holder if he determines it’s in his political interest.

It is.

The attorney general is being criticized, and being urged to resign, from those on both the left and the right. The House of Representative is considering looking into whether Mr. Holder committed perjury (he clearly misled Congress on his role in the James Rosen matter). And in the background of all this is the fact that Holder is a man of unusual incompetence.

Set aside Holder’s record of pushing to reopen an investigation of CIA interrogators who had already been cleared by career prosecutors and wanting to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court in Manhattan, both of which were busts (for more, see here); Mr. Holder can’t even organize a mea culpa with the press without turning it into a controversy.

Now, I’d prefer for Mr. Holder to resign, if only because I’d prefer that a man who misled Congress regarding his role in secretly monitoring the private e-mails of Fox’s James Rosen and for his role in the Fast and Furious operation (for which he was held in contempt of Congress)–a man who is self-righteous as well inept–not be attorney general of the United States. But whether Holder stays or goes is, if not exactly beside the point, not the central issue involved here.

What matters is that we have an administration that had contempt for the rule of law and believes it is right and proper to use the power of the federal government to target, intimidate, and silence its political opponents. That has been happening since nearly the beginning of the Obama Era. Eric Holder is not the generator of this culture of intimidation and corruption; he is merely one of its executioners. The real problem with the Obama administration begins at the top. Getting rid of Eric Holder may be a good idea. But it won’t solve the deeper pathologies of this presidency.

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Holder’s Divide and Conquer Strategy

Attorney General Eric Holder’s press charm offensive began earlier this week with an interview in the Daily Beast in which he expressed regrets for the Justice Department’s spying on journalists. It escalated yesterday with the first of a series of meetings with publication executives and bureau chiefs where he claimed the DOJ would rethink its guidelines for dealing with journalists who have been leaked government information.

But while these efforts may seem like futile gestures that won’t get Holder off the hook, they are actually a clever tactic. Those who attend these meetings need to be conscious that what is going on is not so much an attempt to mend fences with the media but an effort to divide and conquer the press. The attorney general and the president know that if they can tap into the liberal mainstream media’s inherent sympathy for Obama and antipathy for his critics, they can divert attention from the current spate of scandals. The refusal of many liberal pundits–who had joined in the universal condemnation of the government’s spying on the Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen–to connect the dots when it comes to Holder’s lies about the issue shows that there is good reason to believe the administration can succeed in avoiding being held accountable for their actions. Getting journalists to make nice with Holder rather than hold his feet to the fire is the first step toward making this a reality.

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Attorney General Eric Holder’s press charm offensive began earlier this week with an interview in the Daily Beast in which he expressed regrets for the Justice Department’s spying on journalists. It escalated yesterday with the first of a series of meetings with publication executives and bureau chiefs where he claimed the DOJ would rethink its guidelines for dealing with journalists who have been leaked government information.

But while these efforts may seem like futile gestures that won’t get Holder off the hook, they are actually a clever tactic. Those who attend these meetings need to be conscious that what is going on is not so much an attempt to mend fences with the media but an effort to divide and conquer the press. The attorney general and the president know that if they can tap into the liberal mainstream media’s inherent sympathy for Obama and antipathy for his critics, they can divert attention from the current spate of scandals. The refusal of many liberal pundits–who had joined in the universal condemnation of the government’s spying on the Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen–to connect the dots when it comes to Holder’s lies about the issue shows that there is good reason to believe the administration can succeed in avoiding being held accountable for their actions. Getting journalists to make nice with Holder rather than hold his feet to the fire is the first step toward making this a reality.

Though most of those invited to the meetings begged off because holding an off-the-record talk with the person at the center of this scandal was inappropriate, those who did show up dished most of the details. As Politico, whose editor-in-chief John Harris was there, reported, the talk centered on non-controversial suggestions about seeking a better “balance” between protecting national security and respecting the First Amendment rights of journalists.

That’s all well and good but what the press needs to be doing with General Holder is not holding his hand and pledging mutual coexistence. He needs to be pressed on why he lied to Congress on May 15 about knowing nothing about potential prosecutions of journalists when he had already signed off on documents accusing Rosen of being a “co-conspirator” in a crime for doing his job. Holder and his boss President Obama also need to explain how it is the same person that was responsible for these outrageous attacks on press freedoms can possibly be trusted to stop such abuses in the future.

The point is we don’t really need a redrawing of guidelines about national security and the press. What we need is an attorney general who respects the Constitution.

No one disputes that the government has a duty to protect genuine secrets or that the press should not publish or broadcast material that would endanger lives or compromise America’s ability to defend itself. But despite the pious proclamations on these subjects emanating from those seeking to rationalize the indefensible treatment of the AP and Rosen, what’s happened the past four and half years can’t really be excused in that manner.

Holder’s jihad against the press isn’t really about leaks. Leaking is, after all, something the Obama White House has turned into an art form. The series of flattering stories about Obama’s prowess as a national security leader that wound up on the front page of the Sunday New York Times last year prior to his re-election were all anonymously sourced from administration figures. But we have yet to hear of anyone in the White House or their little friends in the media getting the James Rosen treatment.

This administration has prosecuted more people for speaking about government secrets than all of its predecessors combined. What Holder has done is to create an atmosphere of intimidation aimed at preventing people from talking about government operations with the press, not making it harder for officials to puff the president even if, as with the case with last year’s stories in the Times, they were based on highly secret national security matters.

What is needed at DOJ is a change of leadership, not better communication skills. Anyone in the media, especially those who troop to Holder’s office to make nice with him this week, needs to keep that in mind. Liberal journalists who protect this president and his attorney general rather than defending the principles of a free press are falling prey to a divide and conquer strategy aimed at isolating the president’s critics, not a reevaluation of a flawed policy.

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Excusing Eric Holder’s Deceptions

The way the press has united to protest the Justice Department’s attempts to spy on journalists has been remarkable. Though a few outlier contrarians are claiming the Associated Press or James Rosen of Fox News were in the wrong and deserved to be snooped on, from right to left the press has largely joined together to protest this unprecedented encroachment on the constitutional rights of journalists. Even most liberal members of the media understand that the attempt to brand Rosen’s activity as a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act is nothing less than an attempt to criminalize reporting about the government.

However, there are clear limits to the sense of outrage about government’s war on journalists. What we have witnessed in the last month is what Jonah Goldberg wittily referred to as an Arab Spring in the media as some Obama apologists have allowed the leak prosecutions, as well as questions about Benghazi and the IRS, to cause them to do some unusually critical reporting about the administration. But when it comes to connecting the dots between their justified outrage and Attorney General Eric Holder’s conduct, the old partisan divide appears to be reappearing. Though Holder appears to have either perjured himself when he appeared before a House committee on May 15 when testifying about prosecutions of journalists or else lied on the documents he sent to federal judges to get them to authorize the snooping on James Rosen, many in the press have reverted to form and are giving him a pass.

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The way the press has united to protest the Justice Department’s attempts to spy on journalists has been remarkable. Though a few outlier contrarians are claiming the Associated Press or James Rosen of Fox News were in the wrong and deserved to be snooped on, from right to left the press has largely joined together to protest this unprecedented encroachment on the constitutional rights of journalists. Even most liberal members of the media understand that the attempt to brand Rosen’s activity as a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act is nothing less than an attempt to criminalize reporting about the government.

However, there are clear limits to the sense of outrage about government’s war on journalists. What we have witnessed in the last month is what Jonah Goldberg wittily referred to as an Arab Spring in the media as some Obama apologists have allowed the leak prosecutions, as well as questions about Benghazi and the IRS, to cause them to do some unusually critical reporting about the administration. But when it comes to connecting the dots between their justified outrage and Attorney General Eric Holder’s conduct, the old partisan divide appears to be reappearing. Though Holder appears to have either perjured himself when he appeared before a House committee on May 15 when testifying about prosecutions of journalists or else lied on the documents he sent to federal judges to get them to authorize the snooping on James Rosen, many in the press have reverted to form and are giving him a pass.

That’s the only way to explain the decision of many liberal pundits to accept the notion that Holder wasn’t lying to the House. To refresh our memories, here is what Holder said on May 15 when specifically questioned by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) about the possibility of journalists being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for reporting information that the government labeled as classified:

With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy. In fact, my view is quite the opposite.

Yet we know that early in Obama’s first term, Holder had personally signed off on requests for judicial permission to read James Rosen’s emails and seize his phone records by labeling him as a “co-conspirator” and someone who “aided and abetted” a crime by seeking to get a source to give him information.

Holder’s liberal defenders as well as the White House are parsing his statement as being about actual ongoing attempts to prosecute and since Rosen hadn’t actually been charged, what the attorney general said could be interpreted as being literally true. But Holder referred to “potential prosecution of the press,” not cases already on the dock. That means that the most generous way to evaluate his statement is to say that it was an attempt to deceive. In plain English, he perjured himself and there’s little doubt that’s exactly what liberal pundits would be saying if any of George W. Bush’s attorney generals had spoken in this manner to Congress.

An alternative interpretation is that Holder’s statement was true because the DOJ’s request for the right to spy on Rosen was where the lying occurred. It is entirely possible that the document with Holder’s signature that spoke of Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a crime was blatantly disingenuous. While this administration has prosecuted more leakers (though not any of the anonymous White House officials who gave friendly media outlets flattering information about President Obama and his policies) than all of its predecessors combined, perhaps Holder wasn’t so stupid as to think he could actually get away with criminalizing journalism. Instead, he just brazenly lied to the judges in order to con them into authorizing federal snooping.

A third theory gets Holder off the hook for lying to Congress or the judiciary but is an indictment of his leadership. That one holds that Holder didn’t know what was being done in his name (even on documents he signed) and therefore simply came up blank when asked about the Espionage Act. This fits in with the “we’re not criminal, just incompetent” excuse the administration has been using on the IRS and Benghazi. But it also treats Holder as a cipher rather than the experienced and powerful figure that he actually is.

But no matter which of these three options you want to pick, Holder has clearly exhibited behavior that is not only not up to the high standards the president supposedly holds for his government but is a disgrace by any standard. It’s time for liberals to stop trying to excuse his mendacious behavior. Holder may still have the affection of his friend in the Oval Office, but its time for his defenders in the press to cut him loose.

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Is Holder on the Way Out?

President Obama has shown a remarkable ability to tune out the media as well as public opinion when it suits him. That should stand Attorney General Eric Holder in good stead as he weathers the backlash that he is facing in the wake of the revelations of Department of Justice’s shocking attacks on the freedom of the press. Holder is an Obama loyalist and probably the most experienced Washington hand in the administration and the one figure many observers thought most likely to last from the beginning to the end of the Obama presidency. Yet the latest statements coming from Holder about the investigations into Fox News reporter James Rosen and the Associated Press that he authorized show how weak his position has become. Throw in the growing realization even on the left that Holder must go, and you get the sense that even a president who is reluctant to make his allies walk the plank—even if that would help his political standing—is starting to consider asking the attorney general to disappear.

Holder’s claim in an interview in the Daily Beast that he didn’t understand the ramifications of his decisions until he read about them in the Washington Post lacks credibility. So, too, do his sappy expressions of “regret” about the way his department—with his direct approval—has infringed on the rights of the press. But given all we know about what went into the effort to find a judge to sign off on these probes, as our John Podhoretz wrote this morning in the New York Post, “the whole story smells to high heaven.” But the willingness of prominent Obama supporters to view this mess with the same sort of disdain may mean a tipping point has been reached. Liberal legal analyst Jonathan Turley’s column in USA Today notes that this isn’t the first time Holder has tried to deny responsibility for scandals such as the Fast and Furious debacle. But the lies Holder told when he testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee about the seizure of the AP’s phone records as well as the subsequent fibbing about this issue make it necessary that the president fire the attorney general as soon as possible.

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President Obama has shown a remarkable ability to tune out the media as well as public opinion when it suits him. That should stand Attorney General Eric Holder in good stead as he weathers the backlash that he is facing in the wake of the revelations of Department of Justice’s shocking attacks on the freedom of the press. Holder is an Obama loyalist and probably the most experienced Washington hand in the administration and the one figure many observers thought most likely to last from the beginning to the end of the Obama presidency. Yet the latest statements coming from Holder about the investigations into Fox News reporter James Rosen and the Associated Press that he authorized show how weak his position has become. Throw in the growing realization even on the left that Holder must go, and you get the sense that even a president who is reluctant to make his allies walk the plank—even if that would help his political standing—is starting to consider asking the attorney general to disappear.

Holder’s claim in an interview in the Daily Beast that he didn’t understand the ramifications of his decisions until he read about them in the Washington Post lacks credibility. So, too, do his sappy expressions of “regret” about the way his department—with his direct approval—has infringed on the rights of the press. But given all we know about what went into the effort to find a judge to sign off on these probes, as our John Podhoretz wrote this morning in the New York Post, “the whole story smells to high heaven.” But the willingness of prominent Obama supporters to view this mess with the same sort of disdain may mean a tipping point has been reached. Liberal legal analyst Jonathan Turley’s column in USA Today notes that this isn’t the first time Holder has tried to deny responsibility for scandals such as the Fast and Furious debacle. But the lies Holder told when he testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee about the seizure of the AP’s phone records as well as the subsequent fibbing about this issue make it necessary that the president fire the attorney general as soon as possible.

Turley thinks Holder has served as Obama’s principal “sin eater”—a high-ranking official who shields the president from responsibility for his action—throughout his presidency. But his claims that he knew nothing about the investigations that he had, in fact, personally authorized, lays him open to charges of perjury. As Turley writes, Holder is “the best witness against his continuing in office.”

His insistence that he did nothing was a telling moment. The attorney general has done little in his tenure to protect civil liberties or the free press. Rather, Holder has supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process. This ignoble legacy was made possible by Democrats who would look at their shoes whenever the Obama administration was accused of constitutional abuses.

He’s right about that. It’s past time for Democrats to start stepping up and show that their statements about defending the First Amendment rights of the press are more than empty rhetoric.

The president may have thought he could get away by ordering a probe of what happened in the AP and Fox cases by none other than the attorney general, but that isn’t going to work. Holder’s misleading testimony to Congress about the unprecedented attack on the press is the sort of thing that could make it impossible for the bleeding on this story to stop without a change at the Department of Justice. As much as the president may want to pretend that this is a partisan attack on his friend, that’s a line of argument that is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Unless Obama is willing to get rid of Holder, he will no longer be able to keep distancing the White House from this scandal. While the president may be slow to come to this realization, the end of Holder’s disastrous tenure may be in sight.

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Team Obama’s Damascus Road Experiences

We’re seeing some remarkable conversions occur before our very eyes. Take David Axelrod, who was President Obama’s top political adviser in the White House.

For years Axelrod, along with Anita Dunn and others, led a Nixonian campaign to discredit and delegitimize Fox News. Yet now Axelrod is angst-ridden and aggrieved at the Justice Department’s surveillance of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he finds all of this “disturbing.”

“I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,” according to Axelrod. “The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing.”

Mr. Axelrod’s professed solidarity with Fox News is touching. But a few of us thought the effort back in 2009 to target Fox was disturbing, too – and we went on to predict that it would lead to something that looks very much like what has occurred: the abuse of government power to intimidate people Team Obama viewed as a threat.

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We’re seeing some remarkable conversions occur before our very eyes. Take David Axelrod, who was President Obama’s top political adviser in the White House.

For years Axelrod, along with Anita Dunn and others, led a Nixonian campaign to discredit and delegitimize Fox News. Yet now Axelrod is angst-ridden and aggrieved at the Justice Department’s surveillance of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he finds all of this “disturbing.”

“I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,” according to Axelrod. “The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing.”

Mr. Axelrod’s professed solidarity with Fox News is touching. But a few of us thought the effort back in 2009 to target Fox was disturbing, too – and we went on to predict that it would lead to something that looks very much like what has occurred: the abuse of government power to intimidate people Team Obama viewed as a threat.

Speaking of the scales falling from their eyes, we’re now asked to believe that Attorney General Eric Holder, is “beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse” for his role in authorizing a search warrant that named James Rosen as an “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a crime. A very well developed sense of right and wrong, combined with the fear that he might have committed perjury in his Congressional testimony, will do that to a fellow.

We’re seeing a variation of this with the IRS scandal. The president and Democrats are falling all over themselves condemning the abuse of power by the IRS. But what they conveniently forget is their role in creating a climate that allowed the abuse to flourish. After all, when the DNC runs ads accusing pro-Republican groups of “stealing our democracy,” when the president of the United States suggests they are breaking the law, and when senior Democratic Senators write letters (see here) to the IRS requesting that it survey major nonprofits involved in political campaign activity for their possible “violation of tax laws,” what you are bound to get is what we now have.

The president and his top aides gave clear guidance as to which properties needed to be targeted and provided the accelerants to get a fire burning. And now they profess being shocked that arson was going on.

How stupid do they think we are?

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Holder’s Post-9/11 Backlash Myth

Attorney General Eric Holder left out an important detail from his speech today in which he scolded Americans about not repeating their alleged bias toward Muslims after 9/11. He was on firm ground when he rightly denounced any “misguided acts of retaliation” against Muslims after the Boston Marathon bombing. But in resurrecting the myth that Arabs and Muslims suffered a post-9/11 backlash by an America that was driven to prejudice by terrorism, the top law enforcement official in the nation forgot to tell a gathering of the Anti-Defamation League that attacks against Muslims have been statistically insignificant after 2001 and remain far below the level of reported attacks and incidents involving anti-Semitism.

Ironically, the head of his host organization—which is celebrating its centennial—pointed this out in an interview just this past weekend in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Foxman effectively debunked Holder in advance when he said the following:

“There are ten times as many acts directed against Jews as there are against Muslims,” Foxman says. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t animosity toward Muslims, but even after Boston, you’re not seeing attacks against mosques, you’re not seeing people demonstrating in the streets. That’s something very unique in this country. It’s almost a miracle. It would never happen in Europe.”

He continues, “When people applauded in Boston that the terrorists were captured, there was no negative [repercussion]. The same thing happened after 9/11 – we were so concerned at the time that we took out an ad in the New York Times: ‘You don’t fight hate with hate.’ But it didn’t happen. And it’s not happening now. And that drives the Islamophobes crazy. It drives them nuts.”

Foxman’s right. It didn’t happen after 9/11 and it’s not happening now, which makes the disapproving tone of Holder’s diatribe somewhat suspicious. As I pointed out in an article in COMMENTARY in 2010 on the impact of the post-9/11 backlash myth on the Ground Zero mosque controversy, though the idea of a wave of discriminatory attacks against Muslims has been mentioned so often in the media that it has become an accepted truth, it isn’t borne out by the record. Every subsequent release of FBI hate crime statistics tells the same story: attacks against Jews far outnumber those against Muslims and Arabs even during the periods when the latter were supposedly under siege.

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Attorney General Eric Holder left out an important detail from his speech today in which he scolded Americans about not repeating their alleged bias toward Muslims after 9/11. He was on firm ground when he rightly denounced any “misguided acts of retaliation” against Muslims after the Boston Marathon bombing. But in resurrecting the myth that Arabs and Muslims suffered a post-9/11 backlash by an America that was driven to prejudice by terrorism, the top law enforcement official in the nation forgot to tell a gathering of the Anti-Defamation League that attacks against Muslims have been statistically insignificant after 2001 and remain far below the level of reported attacks and incidents involving anti-Semitism.

Ironically, the head of his host organization—which is celebrating its centennial—pointed this out in an interview just this past weekend in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Foxman effectively debunked Holder in advance when he said the following:

“There are ten times as many acts directed against Jews as there are against Muslims,” Foxman says. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t animosity toward Muslims, but even after Boston, you’re not seeing attacks against mosques, you’re not seeing people demonstrating in the streets. That’s something very unique in this country. It’s almost a miracle. It would never happen in Europe.”

He continues, “When people applauded in Boston that the terrorists were captured, there was no negative [repercussion]. The same thing happened after 9/11 – we were so concerned at the time that we took out an ad in the New York Times: ‘You don’t fight hate with hate.’ But it didn’t happen. And it’s not happening now. And that drives the Islamophobes crazy. It drives them nuts.”

Foxman’s right. It didn’t happen after 9/11 and it’s not happening now, which makes the disapproving tone of Holder’s diatribe somewhat suspicious. As I pointed out in an article in COMMENTARY in 2010 on the impact of the post-9/11 backlash myth on the Ground Zero mosque controversy, though the idea of a wave of discriminatory attacks against Muslims has been mentioned so often in the media that it has become an accepted truth, it isn’t borne out by the record. Every subsequent release of FBI hate crime statistics tells the same story: attacks against Jews far outnumber those against Muslims and Arabs even during the periods when the latter were supposedly under siege.

To note this is not to sanction bias against Muslims. No one should hold any individual responsible for the actions of the ethnic or religious group to which they belong, let alone crimes committed by a small minority, as is the case with American Muslims. Hate crimes of any sort are despicable and deserve severe punishment. But the false narrative of anti-Muslim discrimination fostered by radical groups that purport to speak for that community is intended to do more than squelch bias. The purpose is to forestall any effort to bring those sectors of the Muslim community under scrutiny for their role in the growth of Islamist extremism and homegrown terrorism on our shores.

Holder, who never mentioned that the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslim in his speech, is doing neither the country nor Muslims any favor by playing this card. Falsely labeling all investigations of Islamist groups and mosques in this country as nothing more than prejudice has become a standard trope in the aftermath of every instance of terror conducted by radical Muslims in the United States. In doing so, those promoting this distorted version of history have hampered counter-terror operations and made it more difficult for the responsible and law-abiding Muslim majority to reject the radicals in their midst.

The only way to end this cycle of extremism is for the government and the media to stop being so frightened of being labeled as bigots and to empower American Muslims to cast out the Islamists in their midst. Until that happens, we will continue to rerun the same tired script with the same tragic consequences.

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Eric Holder’s Reckless Assertion

During a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Attorney General Eric Holder said that creating a “pathway to earned citizenship” was a “civil right.” Mr. Holder put it this way:

 

Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity.

As someone who believes in earned citizenship if it’s done in the context of other steps related to border security and encouraging more high-skilled workers coming to America, perhaps I have a bit of standing to say that what Holder said is nonsense. Offering earned citizenship to illegal aliens falls under the category of prudential arguments about immigration reform. There are serious policy arguments on both sides.

But Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it.

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During a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Attorney General Eric Holder said that creating a “pathway to earned citizenship” was a “civil right.” Mr. Holder put it this way:

 

Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity.

As someone who believes in earned citizenship if it’s done in the context of other steps related to border security and encouraging more high-skilled workers coming to America, perhaps I have a bit of standing to say that what Holder said is nonsense. Offering earned citizenship to illegal aliens falls under the category of prudential arguments about immigration reform. There are serious policy arguments on both sides.

But Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it.

What Holder said also reveals a fairly common mindset of those on the left, which is to characterize whatever position they embrace not simply as correct but as a basic civil right. In other words, as something fundamental and teleological, as a right that is ours based on our nature as human beings. The idea that a person who violates American sovereignty by illegally crossing our borders should be given a pathway to citizenship as a matter of civil and human rights is therefore indefensible, an invention. The attorney general is employing a very serious concept in a reckless way. And it empties the term of meaning, just as promiscuously accusing those who oppose the policies of President Obama of racism empties that charge of meaning. It really ought to stop, since human rights violations and racism really do exist.

Offering earned citizenship to those who are in America illegally may make sense economically, from a security standpoint, and even morally. Fine; if one believes that, then make the arguments. But words actually mean something — human rights and civil rights as concepts mean something — and so for Holder to make the claim that he did is quite unfortunate. But it is also, alas, quite predictable.

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Report Cites F&F Failures, Clears Holder

A lengthy report released by the Department of Justice inspector general’s office this afternoon cites serious failures in management related to the Fast and Furious scandal, singling out 14 employees for sanction review but ultimately finding that Attorney General Eric Holder had no knowledge of the operation prior to early 2011. The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Justice Department watchdog recommended that 14 employees be reviewed for possible sanctions in light of a “pattern of serious failures” at the department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in overseeing the botched Fast and Furious operation against gun traffickers.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the more than 400-page report Wednesday, the most extensive review of the actions by federal officials in Arizona and Washington that led to the scandal.

Among his findings, he said that Attorney General Eric Holder wasn’t aware of the tactics being used in the operation until early 2011, an issue that has become a point of contention with Republican lawmakers who have accused Mr. Holder of authorizing the flawed probe.

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A lengthy report released by the Department of Justice inspector general’s office this afternoon cites serious failures in management related to the Fast and Furious scandal, singling out 14 employees for sanction review but ultimately finding that Attorney General Eric Holder had no knowledge of the operation prior to early 2011. The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Justice Department watchdog recommended that 14 employees be reviewed for possible sanctions in light of a “pattern of serious failures” at the department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in overseeing the botched Fast and Furious operation against gun traffickers.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the more than 400-page report Wednesday, the most extensive review of the actions by federal officials in Arizona and Washington that led to the scandal.

Among his findings, he said that Attorney General Eric Holder wasn’t aware of the tactics being used in the operation until early 2011, an issue that has become a point of contention with Republican lawmakers who have accused Mr. Holder of authorizing the flawed probe.

The Daily Caller’s Matt Boyle reports that former ATF head Kenneth Melson and Jason Weinstein, a deputy assistant attorney general, have already stepped down as a result of the report.

Holder also came out swinging against Republican critics this afternoon, claiming the report “debunks” allegations made against him by members of the House GOP, particularly the charge that he knew about the operation earlier than he acknowledged. But this is far from a victory for him. The fact that the report found “a pattern of serious failures” and singled out 14 of his employees for penalties — including the two top-level officials who already resigned — is a pretty clear repudiation of Holder’s leadership.

If this report had come out six months ago, House Republicans might have been able to get their scalp. But the election is a month and a half away. Even if Obama is reelected, I can’t imagine Holder would stick around for a second term. This report slapped some wrists and held the DOJ accountable for some “serious failures,” while giving Holder enough cover to hold onto his job for the time being — which is probably enough to get him through to the end of his term.

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Texas Voter ID Case Determined by Past, Not Present Discrimination

The Obama administration won a victory today in their campaign to strike down voter ID laws. Only days after the United States District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated Texas’s new congressional and legislative districts, the same court struck down the state’s voter ID law. The court accepted the Justice Department’s arguments that the bill placed an undue burden on poor and minority voters. Texas has said it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and its attorney general says he can prevail there because the court has previously ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional. State courts have upheld a voter ID law in Pennsylvania but Texas’ problem is that because of its past history of racial discrimination, it must get federal approval for anything relating to voting rights. But those looking for the Supremes to reinforce their previous decision on voter ID may be disappointed. The issue at stake in the Texas case will be the constitutionality of the federal Voting Rights Act that gives Washington the power to oversee the state’s laws rather than voter ID itself.

In states not affected by the Voting Rights Act, courts can weigh efforts to prevent fraud on their own merits. The overwhelming majority of Americans back voter ID laws because they are inherently reasonable. If you need a picture ID to board an airplane, an Amtrak train, conduct even the most simple transaction with the government or a bank as well as buy a beer, most people rightly think that you should have to do as much to vote. Given that, contrary to fallacious Democratic talking points, voter fraud has always been a concern in American politics; the courts have upheld such laws as both prudent and obviously constitutional.

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The Obama administration won a victory today in their campaign to strike down voter ID laws. Only days after the United States District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated Texas’s new congressional and legislative districts, the same court struck down the state’s voter ID law. The court accepted the Justice Department’s arguments that the bill placed an undue burden on poor and minority voters. Texas has said it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and its attorney general says he can prevail there because the court has previously ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional. State courts have upheld a voter ID law in Pennsylvania but Texas’ problem is that because of its past history of racial discrimination, it must get federal approval for anything relating to voting rights. But those looking for the Supremes to reinforce their previous decision on voter ID may be disappointed. The issue at stake in the Texas case will be the constitutionality of the federal Voting Rights Act that gives Washington the power to oversee the state’s laws rather than voter ID itself.

In states not affected by the Voting Rights Act, courts can weigh efforts to prevent fraud on their own merits. The overwhelming majority of Americans back voter ID laws because they are inherently reasonable. If you need a picture ID to board an airplane, an Amtrak train, conduct even the most simple transaction with the government or a bank as well as buy a beer, most people rightly think that you should have to do as much to vote. Given that, contrary to fallacious Democratic talking points, voter fraud has always been a concern in American politics; the courts have upheld such laws as both prudent and obviously constitutional.

But under the Voting Rights Act, anything that even inadvertently affects minority voters, even if the purpose is constitutional and the impact incidental can be construed as a violation of the law. Thus, attorneys for Texas were given the impossible task of being forced to defend their state against a hypothetical assertion that could not be definitively disproved. Only a Supreme Court decision striking down the entire Voting Rights Act can prevent the Obama administration from stopping voter ID in Texas.

Proponents of voter ID can rightly assert that any comparison such as that made by Attorney General Holder that these bills are “Jim Crow laws” is an outrageous distortion of the truth. Minority voters are just as capable of getting themselves a free state ID card, as are whites. Anyone capable of registering to vote can do so. Unless opponents of these laws are prepared to argue that officials have no right to ask a prospective voter to prove his identity or even his citizenship, the charge of discrimination doesn’t hold water.

But the bottom line in the Texas case is that since it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will strike down the entire Voting Rights Act, the administration will be able to stop voter ID in the Lone Star State. Though Holder claimed the state was discriminating against minorities the case was determined by past injustices, not proof of present day bias. A true test of the constitutionality of such laws will have to wait for other challenges to make their way to the high court.

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House GOP Releases First F&F Report

The House Oversight Committee is holding five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials responsible in the Fast and Furious operation failures, according to a draft report released last night:

The report determined that five officials in the ATF were responsible, ranging from a former low-ranking special agent to the former acting head of the agency. Congressional investigators called attention to the weak leadership at the ATF and pushed for the agency to be strengthened.

“Strong leadership is needed at ATF to overcome the deep scars left by Operation Fast and Furious,” the report states. “Greater accountability within ATF would underscore that ineffective supervision and recklessness both have consequences.”

Specifically, the report pins blame on former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

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The House Oversight Committee is holding five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials responsible in the Fast and Furious operation failures, according to a draft report released last night:

The report determined that five officials in the ATF were responsible, ranging from a former low-ranking special agent to the former acting head of the agency. Congressional investigators called attention to the weak leadership at the ATF and pushed for the agency to be strengthened.

“Strong leadership is needed at ATF to overcome the deep scars left by Operation Fast and Furious,” the report states. “Greater accountability within ATF would underscore that ineffective supervision and recklessness both have consequences.”

Specifically, the report pins blame on former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

The Hill reports that all five of these officials have been reassigned to other positions. But this oversight report is just the beginning. There are two more reports set to be released, which will both deal with the Department of Justice directly. According to The Hill, the next one will be focused on the deputy attorney general’s office, and the third one will address the failings at the top level of the attorney general’s office and AG Eric Holder. The point of the staggered release may be to give Obama time to back down on executive privilege, Allahpundit writes:

The point of this leak, I assume, is to give Obama one last chance to drop his executive privilege claim over the DOJ documents that [Rep. Darrell] Issa wants to see. (The LAT quotes the report as saying it’s based on “the best information available as of now.”) If he does that, then the report will be held back while GOP investigators go through the new evidence. If he doesn’t do it, then the GOP can argue that there must be nothing in those e-mails that exculpates any of the five guys they’ve named.

Anybody think there’s a chance of this happening? Me neither.

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WH Needs Special Prosecutor Now

Senate Republicans have been calling on President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the national security leaks from the White House. This is even more critical in the wake of the Eric Holder contempt vote, as the same Obama-appointed U.S. attorney is now in charge of dealing with the charges against Holder and the investigation into the intelligence leaks.

The most obvious problem is the conflict of interest. It’s doubtful that U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen, an Obama appointee, can fairly investigate his own boss (Eric Holder), or his boss’s boss (President Obama) in either the leak cases or the Fast and Furious stonewalling.

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Senate Republicans have been calling on President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the national security leaks from the White House. This is even more critical in the wake of the Eric Holder contempt vote, as the same Obama-appointed U.S. attorney is now in charge of dealing with the charges against Holder and the investigation into the intelligence leaks.

The most obvious problem is the conflict of interest. It’s doubtful that U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen, an Obama appointee, can fairly investigate his own boss (Eric Holder), or his boss’s boss (President Obama) in either the leak cases or the Fast and Furious stonewalling.

But even putting that aside, Machen has now been referred two big, high-profile cases in a matter of weeks, both of which are vital to the public interest. The Washington Post reported last week that Machen already had a full plate, and his staff was overwhelmed with D.C. corruption prosecutions even before the leak case and Holder contempt charge got to his desk:

As if investigating D.C. public corruption wasn’t enough, Machen and his prosecutors were handed another difficult task June 8: spearheading a probe of leaks of classified material to reporters. That assignment came the same day that former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges; Brown resigned just days earlier when he was charged in federal court by prosecutors who, with FBI agents, began by investigating discrepancies in his 2008 council campaign.

Although overall attrition has held steady, Machen has lost at least a half-dozen experienced and respected supervisors. In recent weeks, at least six prosecutors have said they will leave the 35-lawyer homicide unit.

A federal hiring freeze has made it difficult to replace those prosecutors, and those remaining are beginning to complain of burnout.

Can Machen’s office reasonably be expected to give the new workload the attention it deserves? Can he be trusted to pursue these cases fairly? The answer to both questions, at this point, seems to be no.

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Holder Found in Contempt of Congress

As expected, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, largely along party lines, 255 to 67. Seventeen Democrats crossed over to vote for contempt with the GOP, while more than 100 Democrats sat out the vote in protest.

Now that the resolution has passed, the issue will be turned over to the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen to decide whether he wants to pursue charges against Holder, who is, of course, Machen’s boss. Machen, as you may recall, is also leading the investigation into the White House national security leaks, and Republicans have already been raising alarms about that conflict of interest.

According to CNN, Machen has no obligation to do anything with the Holder dispute, and considering his position, he probably won’t. But the GOP will likely point out that the White House is blocking two investigations from independent scrutiny, a major deviation from its rhetoric on transparency.

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As expected, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, largely along party lines, 255 to 67. Seventeen Democrats crossed over to vote for contempt with the GOP, while more than 100 Democrats sat out the vote in protest.

Now that the resolution has passed, the issue will be turned over to the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen to decide whether he wants to pursue charges against Holder, who is, of course, Machen’s boss. Machen, as you may recall, is also leading the investigation into the White House national security leaks, and Republicans have already been raising alarms about that conflict of interest.

According to CNN, Machen has no obligation to do anything with the Holder dispute, and considering his position, he probably won’t. But the GOP will likely point out that the White House is blocking two investigations from independent scrutiny, a major deviation from its rhetoric on transparency.

The criminal charge isn’t the only avenue the House GOP is pursuing. They may be able to get some results through civil action, CNN reports:

House Republicans are well aware of this recent history, which helps explain the separate measure authorizing a civil action. That resolution, according to a GOP spokesman, would allow the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to file a lawsuit asking the courts to examine the Justice Department’s failure to produce certain subpoenaed documents, as well as the validity of the administration’s assertion of executive privilege.

Even then, it will take awhile before Republicans get any documents they may be owed — likely too long to matter in the upcoming election. But that doesn’t mean the White House is off the hook. Politically, this looks terrible. To have an attorney general held in contempt for withholding documents related to the murder of a border patrol officer is bad enough. To have a president who is seen as actively protecting this attorney general is much worse, particularly in an administration that already has a history of eschewing independent investigations.

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New Holder Emails Raise More Questions

The Associated Press (AP) has reported on three emails from 2011 that Attorney General Eric Holder showed members of Congress at a Tuesday meeting, during his last-ditch effort to avert today’s contempt vote. The emails supposedly show Holder hadn’t known about Operation Fast and Furious until February 2011 and immediately set out to get to the bottom of the issue.

Keep in mind, the AP didn’t see the actual emails — the contents were “described” by people who had seen them — and there are few specific quotes given in the article. If this is supposed to be evidence that Holder was doing the right thing, it seems pretty flimsy:

CBS News ran a story on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 3, CBS followed up, and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity weighed in with its own online account.

On Feb. 23, aides passed along to the attorney general the CBS story alleging gun-walking, and the attorney general shot back, “We need answers on this. Not defensive BS. Real answers.”

Five days later, Holder asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.

On March 3…the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, emailed his staff: “We obviously need to get to the bottom of this.”

Holder was skeptical of any assurances.

“I hope the AG understands that we did not allow guns to walk,” an official at the ATF’s Washington headquarters said on March 10 in an email that Holder’s aides forwarded to the attorney general.

In a response, Holder wrote, “Do they really, really know” that there was no gun-walking?

A day earlier, at Holder’s instruction, the Justice Department had sent out a directive to the field reinforcing a longtime Justice Department policy against gun-walking. The directive said that agents must not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.

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The Associated Press (AP) has reported on three emails from 2011 that Attorney General Eric Holder showed members of Congress at a Tuesday meeting, during his last-ditch effort to avert today’s contempt vote. The emails supposedly show Holder hadn’t known about Operation Fast and Furious until February 2011 and immediately set out to get to the bottom of the issue.

Keep in mind, the AP didn’t see the actual emails — the contents were “described” by people who had seen them — and there are few specific quotes given in the article. If this is supposed to be evidence that Holder was doing the right thing, it seems pretty flimsy:

CBS News ran a story on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 3, CBS followed up, and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity weighed in with its own online account.

On Feb. 23, aides passed along to the attorney general the CBS story alleging gun-walking, and the attorney general shot back, “We need answers on this. Not defensive BS. Real answers.”

Five days later, Holder asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.

On March 3…the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, emailed his staff: “We obviously need to get to the bottom of this.”

Holder was skeptical of any assurances.

“I hope the AG understands that we did not allow guns to walk,” an official at the ATF’s Washington headquarters said on March 10 in an email that Holder’s aides forwarded to the attorney general.

In a response, Holder wrote, “Do they really, really know” that there was no gun-walking?

A day earlier, at Holder’s instruction, the Justice Department had sent out a directive to the field reinforcing a longtime Justice Department policy against gun-walking. The directive said that agents must not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.

Not to nitpick, but AP writes that “Republicans have promoted the idea” that top DOJ officials knew about the gun-walking. That’s framed rather unfairly — this wasn’t some baseless idea pulled out of thin air by the GOP; emails we’ve already seen showed Holder’s top aides discussing F&F as early as December 2010. Holder himself claimed he’d heard about the gun-running a “few weeks” before his May 2011 hearing with Congress, but was forced to reverse himself later, after it became clear he must have known before that.

The latest letters Holder showed members of Congress seem to show he knew about the operation in February 2011, but where is the evidence that he’d just found about it at that point? Just because he allegedly sent out emails ordering an investigation and questioning others about the gunwalking, that hardly seems like proof he wasn’t aware of this earlier.

Plus — if he was so involved in the issue that he’d sent out field directives and vowed to “get to the bottom” of the case in February, then why was he so fuzzy on the timeline during questioning in May? Clearly, he had to have recalled that he knew about this for longer than “a few weeks.”

As I wrote, we already knew his office was aware of the gun-walking months before these emails were sent. If Holder wasn’t informed properly, then why haven’t heads rolled on this? And if the full electronic mail trail really shows Holder had no idea about F&F, why doesn’t the administration just let investigators take a look? Three vague emails we can’t even see tell us nothing, and they actually only make Holder’s defense seem weaker.

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Congressional Black Caucus Plans Walk Out on Holder Vote

Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

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Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

The CBC, of course, would never engage in these sort of “political stunts” and “meaningless partisan activities.” Speaking of which, how many Republicans do you think will be at the CBC’s meaningful bipartisan press conference condemning the Eric Holder contempt vote? I’m going to go with “zero.” When even Sen. Scott “Independent Voice of Massachusetts” Brown is calling for Holder’s resignation, it seems safe to assume the GOP is sticking together on this one.

In fact, the only real bipartisanship we’re likely to see today will be on the side supporting the contempt vote. Fox News reports that at least 11 House Democrats are expected to break rank and join the GOP on this one, but others have speculated that number could be as high as 31.

It’s also interesting that House Democrats are suddenly complaining about “sideshows” after wasting months on the “war on women” nonsense. Criticizing House Republicans for focusing on political stunts isn’t likely to sway public opinion, particularly as the Fast and Furious investigation has bipartisan support, and Holder isn’t exactly a sympathetic party in this conflict.

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NRA to Score Holder Contempt Vote

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

So far, Rep. Matheson is the first Democratic defector. Getting 31 Democrats to cross the aisle still seems like a long-shot for Issa, but the NRA scoring will certainly help. The lobbying group does appear to have had some interest or involvement in the Fast and Furious letter Issa mentions that had 31 Democratic signatories last year, since it was posted on the NRA website under “media.” If the Democrats lose 31 members on this vote, their argument that the GOP is using it as a ploy to tie Holder’s hands on voting rights becomes even more absurd.

The NRA, meanwhile, outlined its justification for scoring the vote in a recent letter to House GOP leadership, making the case that this is about gun rights, not partisanship (h/t Moe Lane):

It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder. For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions. Since taking office, Attorney General Holder has seized on the violence in Mexico to promote the lie that “90 percent” of firearms used in Mexican crime come from the U.S.; to call for bringing back the 1994 Clinton gun ban; and to justify the illegal multiple sales reporting scheme, which amounts to gun registration for honest Americans who buy long guns in southwest border states.

But our support of this contempt resolution is not about those issues — nor is it a partisan decision, for we have also expressed our strong policy disagreements with Attorney General Holder’s predecessors of both parties. The reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for Attorney General Holder’s resignation more than a year ago: the Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.

Hoyer will try his best to keep his party in line, but the election is a little more than four months away, and some Democrats won’t be able to afford being on the wrong side of the NRA.

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Fast & Furious Doesn’t Hurt the GOP

The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza writes today that the attempt by House Republicans to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal is a political loser. According to Cilizza, Congress is so unpopular that any attention given to the House GOP caucus is bad for Mitt Romney’s chances in November. He also thinks any moment taken away from a discussion of President Obama’s handling of the economy is a lost opportunity for the challenger. Though he concedes that being dragged into the mud with John Boehner and company doesn’t help the president, Cilizza is still wrong to think the Republicans’ decision to push hard on this issue is a mistake.

While the Republicans do have to concentrate on the economy, if there is anything we should have learned from the political collapse of the George W. Bush presidency is that fresh problems merely compound an administration’s troubles; they don’t provide an escape hatch. Just as Hurricane Katrina didn’t stop Americans from worrying about the Iraq War, Fast and Furious won’t stop them from being upset about the parlous state of the nation’s finances and job losses. The specter of scandal and the Nixon-like invocation of “executive privilege” merely contribute to the impression that the Obama presidency is tiptoeing along on a precipice and can start slipping down the mountain at any time.

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The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza writes today that the attempt by House Republicans to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal is a political loser. According to Cilizza, Congress is so unpopular that any attention given to the House GOP caucus is bad for Mitt Romney’s chances in November. He also thinks any moment taken away from a discussion of President Obama’s handling of the economy is a lost opportunity for the challenger. Though he concedes that being dragged into the mud with John Boehner and company doesn’t help the president, Cilizza is still wrong to think the Republicans’ decision to push hard on this issue is a mistake.

While the Republicans do have to concentrate on the economy, if there is anything we should have learned from the political collapse of the George W. Bush presidency is that fresh problems merely compound an administration’s troubles; they don’t provide an escape hatch. Just as Hurricane Katrina didn’t stop Americans from worrying about the Iraq War, Fast and Furious won’t stop them from being upset about the parlous state of the nation’s finances and job losses. The specter of scandal and the Nixon-like invocation of “executive privilege” merely contribute to the impression that the Obama presidency is tiptoeing along on a precipice and can start slipping down the mountain at any time.

Cillizza is right when he notes that Congress and, in particular, the House Republicans, are widely disliked. But the contempt most Americans have for our political class doesn’t mean they don’t think Congress shouldn’t investigate genuine scandals. To the extent that people understand that lives were lost because of a Justice Department blunder and that the administration has been trying to fight a desperate delaying action to avoid dealing with the consequences of their folly, they support a vigorous examination of what has happened.

Nor should the administration take any comfort from legal arguments claiming such privilege is justified. As Politico’s Josh Gerstein writes today, the administration may have a court precedent to cite justifying their decision. But even if they are right about that — and most legal observers think they are mistaken — this is still a colossal miscalculation on the part of the president and his advisers. So far, the mainstream press has refused to treat Fast and Furious as a second Watergate even though the implications of the scandal may be far greater. Some liberals may even buy into the preposterous argument that the investigation of Holder is a racist plot to punish him for opposing a fictitious Republican plot to suppress the minority vote.

But the administration’s foolish decision to invoke executive privilege to stop Congress from investigating is an unforced error that could haunt the president even if he wins re-election this fall. Even for those who haven’t followed the scandal closely — a group that includes most Americans — it contributes to the idea the president is a poor leader and things are out of control in Washington. The privilege claim handed Romney and the GOP a club to beat him for no reason other than to spare Holder some humiliation. President Obama will spend the next four months, if not the next four years, regretting it.

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