The nearby photo, a screen shot of the New York Times’ online headline about the reported resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, is a pretty apt summary of how Holder is likely to be remembered. He has been a “top liberal,” all right — an ideologically charged person who politicized the Justice Department to a greater degree than at any time since the Nixon era.
It was Holder’s DOJ that subpoenaed journalists’ records at an alarming rate — most egregiously, but hardly exclusively, in the case of phone records from the Associated Press’ Washington bureau. These subpoenas have helped fuel an unprecedented effort by an administration to prosecute leakers under the Espionage Act. Because, transparency.
It was Holder’s DOJ that botched a supposed sting operation against Mexican drug cartels, losing track of hundreds of firearms that were used in the killings of numerous Mexican nationals and at least one U.S. ATF agent. The scandal, commonly known by its operation name “Fast and Furious,” has moved largely out of public sight but is still playing out: A federal judge last month ordered the DOJ to hand over certain documents sought by House investigators who have charged Holder with contempt for his lack of cooperation. (The transparency thing again.)
Interfering with the investigation of the IRS scandal; seeking to prosecute prisoners of war in civilian courts before the war ended; declining to defend duly enacted laws of the United States; challenging voter-ID laws like those already upheld by the Supreme Court; seeking to shut down a school-choice program that disproportionately benefits minority children on the absurd grounds of a desegregation order — if there was a way for an attorney general to inject ideology and partisanship into what ought not to be a polarizing office, Eric Holder was apparently ready to try it.
Yet his tenure as attorney general fit rather well, I suppose, with the administration of a president who rose to national prominence by decrying “those who are preparing to divide us” — but who in his first week on the job was taunting his opposite numbers and less than halfway through his first term was encouraging his political allies to “punish our enemies and … reward our friends.”
One hesitates to to cheer Holder’s departure too loudly without knowing whom Obama might come up with to replace him, but it’s a virtual certainty many of us won’t miss him.