Attorney General Eric Holder has developed a bad habit of accusing others of acting in bad faith while doing so himself.
Take the issue of Guantanamo Bay. In Aspen, Colo., last week, Holder accused Congress of playing politics in preventing President Obama from closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center – as Obama had serially promised to do within a year of his inauguration.
But this accusation is disingenuous for a variety of reasons.
Obama campaigned on calls to reverse the Bush administration anti-terrorism protocols, charging that they were either unnecessary or counterproductive. Then, when invested with the responsibility of governance, Obama suddenly reversed himself on almost all of them – tribunals, renditions, Iraq, the Patriot Act, targeted airborne assassinations and Guantanamo Bay. Holder himself – in the quite different political climate of 2002 – once supported the detention of terrorists without regard for the Geneva Conventions. What made him so radically change his views?
In fact, any time Obama wishes to close Guantanamo Bay, he can simply carry out his earlier executive order, in the same manner in which President Bush opened it without congressional approval. In blaming Congress, Holder does not mention the real reasons why the president broke his promise: The American public now wants unrepentant terrorists to stay in Guantanamo rather than be incarcerated and tried in civilian courts here at home.
Holder got himself into trouble last year when he played politics by announcing that the administration would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the terrorist architect of 9/11, in a civilian courtroom. The boast was supposed to contrast an enlightened Obama team with the demonized Bush administration’s supposed lawlessness in confining Mohammed to Guantanamo.
But after New Yorkers protested against holding the trial next to the scene of the 9/11 crime, Holder backed off. Meanwhile, the president rushed to assure the nation that Mohammed would be “convicted” and have “the death penalty … applied to him.” At that point, Bush’s planned military tribunals seemed a lot less prejudicial than Holder’s planned civilian show trials.
Holder’s continual refusal to link radical Islam with the epidemic of global terrorism is likewise entirely political. When asked at a congressional hearing whether radical Islamic terrorists were behind the Fort Hood killings, the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the foiled Times Square bomb attack, Holder refused to identify that obvious common catalyst. He cited instead a “variety of reasons.” The nation’s chief prosecutor was not looking at the evidence, but adhering to a politically correct predetermined dogma.
On matters of race, the attorney general castigated Americans as “a nation of cowards” for not engaging in a national conversation on his own terms. This was an odd accusation since at present we have a black president, attorney general, EPA head and NASA chief, Hispanic secretaries of Labor and the Interior, and a recent Hispanic Supreme Court appointment, not to mention that the two previous secretaries of state were black.
The president himself accused police of stereotyping minorities and acting “stupidly” in arresting his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Some conversation.
Nor would Holder’s envisioned dialogue include attitudes such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s self-identification as a “wise Latina” who supposedly exercises superior judgment over the usual white male jurist. In truth, the nation suffers from too much racial self-identification and politicking, not too little.
Yet Holder himself has used race for political purposes. He criticized Arizona for its anti-illegal alien law – after admitting that he hadn’t read it. Then he chose to sue the state for trying to enforce unenforced federal immigration laws. Now he has promised that if that tactic fails, he will play the race card on Arizona, alleging in yet another suit that its new legislation would entail racial profiling. Remember, the law has not gone into effect yet, so Holder has no evidence of how it will play out.
Holder just dropped a voter fraud case against the New Black Panther Party, which was caught on tape intimidating voters at a polling place. He is leveling charges of racism against those who deliberately excluded racial profiling in their legislation, while giving a free pass to those who blatantly used race to bother voters at the polls.
In just 18 months, Holder has proven to be the most political attorney general since Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell. And like the hyper-partisan Mitchell, Holder will continue to embarrass the nation until he steps down. Given his partisan temperament and checkered record in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, his departure is not a matter of if – only when.
(Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern” You can reach him by e-mailing [email protected])
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