Saturday, June 7, 2008

Campaign 08: Eric Holder. Obama's Choice for A.G.?

Dick Morris is out there saying that Barack Obama's first "blunder" was to select Eric Holder to be part of a vice-presidential search team. Indeed, the choice has led to a series of articles on the Internet and in print media about Holder - most of which seem to portray him as something of a victim, a really bright, nice guy who just happened to be in the wrong administration (the Clinton administration) at the wrong time (near the very end) when all sorts of bad things happened. Indeed, Holder would later describe himself as a person who was "distracted" with this and that and, as a result, he exercised "poor judgment" here and there and did not recognize the "seriousness" of some of his decisions.

Interestingly, these media shots of Mr. Holder have little resemblance to what one can learn simply by looking through House Committee on Government Reform's Justice Undone: Clemency Decisions in the Clinton White House, which was issued on March 14, 2002. The Report, for example, recites that Jack Quinn called Holder, who was serving as deputy attorney general, on the evening of January 19, 2001, to inform him that a pardon for Marc Rich seemed near and that he would be contacted to express an opinion on the matter. Holder knew something about the case. He had worked with Quinn in 1999 in an attempt to get prosecutors to sit down at the bargaining table with Rich, who was a fugitive at the time. Holder thought the prosecutors were being "ridiculous" for their hesitancy to do so. So, when Quinn called Holder with the news, Holder said he had "no strong opposition" to such a pardon. He noted, however, that "law enforcement in New York would strongly oppose it" and prosecutors in the Southern District would "howl."

The Report documents that Cheryl Mills, Beth Nolan and "other White House staff" were more than a little "surprised" to learn that the deputy attorney general had taken such a position. Mills thought Holder to be too "conservative" with respect to pardons. Indeed, she felt that, under Holder, the Justice Department "had not fulfilled its pardon function." Nolan, likewise, was in disbelief and called Holder about it. He told her he was, indeed, "neutral leaning toward or neutral leaning favorable." He also added that the Southern District would "actually go nuts" over any such pardon. As it turned out, Holder's position (or at least the way he worded his position) had a significant impact on the Bill Clinton's deliberations (if that is the right word!) that evening. The Report observes:
Holder's support also had the illusory effect of giving the Justice Department's blessing to the Rich pardon, when in reality, not a single individual at the Justice Department other than Eric Holder knew that the Rich pardon was even being considered. No information about the Rich pardon had been shared with the Justice Department through official channels. Indeed, Holder had a central responsibility for ensuring that no one else at the Justice Department knew that the pardon was even under consideration.
So, the Report takes Holder to task for being aware of the effort to seek a pardon for Rich as early as November of 2000. And he was aware that the White House was considering the pardon in January of 2001. Yet, throughout this period of time, Holder made no attempt to contact prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Is it possible that Obama is considering Mr. Holder (currently a partner at Covington and Burling, LLP) for a position in the Department of Justice? Perhaps as U.S. Attorney General? And how would such a decision go along with the theme of CHANGE? Perhaps once day we will have to dig up old Harry Daugherty and apologize. Maybe Morris is right. This might very well be a major blunder.


Anonymous said...

I hope Obama dumps him - his judgement is questionable.

Anonymous said...

already, the "change we can believe in" is nothing but a change for the worse.

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