THE SPINE FEBRUARY 15, 2010
Poor Eric Holder. The fact is that he is none too smart ... and none too versed in constitutional issues. Although Ronald Reagan did appoint him Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia! Ah, those were the days when Republican presidents appointed Democrats to judicial office and Democratic presidents appointed Republicans to same. Actually, aside from his graduation from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, "second rate" is what comes to mind when you hear Holder's name.
Hey, Janet Reno wasn't so brainy either.
Holder's mental equipment matters now more than ever. After all, he is attorney general in an administration that faces so many constitutional conundrums, meshed with issues of national security, that it invites comparison to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln didn't do so well either.
What's especially strange is the fervency with which Holder has been defending positions that necessity and Rahm Emanuel's political calibrations have mostly forced him to surrender.
John B. Bellinger III, the former legal adviser to the State Department during Bush’s second term, has written an op-ed for the New York Times that almost praises Obama's forced nimbleness in resorting to policies of the previous administration when his own policies have gone down in, well, tatters: Guantanamo, prolonged detentions, military tribunals, international law and international jurisdictions. Politically most telling is the nearly certain reversal of the projected Foley Square trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, although Holder is still blowing hot and cold on this. Having made such a fuss about Mohammed's rights to civil jurisdiction, it must be especially painful to have off the pulpit into the real world. Pragmatism is a welcome change from ideological dogmatism and preening.
Whatever embarrassment these jumbles have caused the attorney general (and his boss), the true shame must have come from a sharply drawn article by Jodi Kantor and Charlie Savage in today's Times. It is called "Getting the Message: After 9/11 Trial Plan, Holder Hones Political Ear." The headline is very soft. The article is very stiff.
As it happens Holder apparently still does not grasp what has happened to him. "I have to do a better job," Holder whines, "in explaining the decisions that I have made." Since Obama has already withdrawn his support for many of these decisions--and the Congressional Democrats, as well--Holder might just think about taking a long holiday in Barbados, where he is slated to be honored as the first of the “100 Great Barbadians.”