Issa and Holder: Fie to Both
Here's one time when I really do say a pox on both houses. The GOP is obviously just trying to manufacture some phony scandal here. At the same time, I've never been an Eric Holder fan.
If you missed David Frum's blog post on this today, you should give it a look. He writes that the sub-rosa reason the right is hot about this is the suspicion (unsupported by any known evidence, he notes, but when has that every stopped them?) that Fast & Furious is really part of grand secret Obama scheme to take away your guns. Hey, don't ask me how.
Frum concludes: "The question for Republicans is: do they really want to take this wild-eyed conspiracy to the country as a national voting issue in 2012? We're not talking to the country. We're talking-to ourselves—or rather, to a fringe constituency within ourselves."
Meanwhile, it's certainly true that Holder has botched a lot of big things. Going back in time, first of all, I always did kind of wonder why the guy who advised Bill Clinton to pardon Marc Rich was named attorney general. Then came the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial. Substantively, the decision to try him in a regular criminal court didn't bother me. The fact (again, not that facts matter, alas) is that the conviction rate of terrorist cases in regular courts has exceeded (or at least had at that point exceeded) the conviction rate attained in military tribunals. But what was totally unbelievable is that no one at Justice cleared the decision with New York officials, not even Chuck Schumer. Definition of boneheaded.
The Beast's Patricia Murphy and Aram Roston have a very thorough overview of where this is headed. Which, by the way, they conclude, is probably nowhere:
If the full House votes next week to hold the attorney general in contempt for withholding the documents, Holder’s case would be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, an Obama appointee who once worked for Holder when Holder himself served as the U.S. Attorney for the District.
But that is the point where constitutional law experts say the proceedings against Holder would likely die, not because of Machen’s relationship with Holder, but because no precedent exists for prosecuting an administration official when the White House has invoked executive privilege over the documents that would be necessary for a grand jury investigation.
So assuming this just fades away at some point, and if Obama wins reelection, he ought to just get Holder out of there pretty quickly and try to find somebody who's more astute politically. There's also the larger question of the office, which in this polarized age is designed to find itself in the middle of many intense controversies, and each side will take its position according to who has the White House and who runs Congress.
I can't remember the last attorney general who left the job with his or her reputation enhanced. Looking at this list, I might literally say Robert H. Jackson, FDR's third AG who left Justice for the Supreme Court (and who is here being mentioned by me for the second time today; see here for the other one). No--Nick Katzenbach I guess. On the Republican side, Dick Thornburgh seemed to come out all right. And of course Elliott Richardson. Now there's your hero AG. Oh, for Republicans like those two, eh?