Even before President Obama publicly announced that he would tap Eric Holder for Attorney General, he knew Holder would be a tough sell job. So he quietly asked key Senate Republicans whether they would go to war to block his confirmation. The GOP response was at best a tepid, and a far from satisfactory no. The last thing Obama needed was a bitter, partisan, and contentious fight over Holder. Yet during the confirmation hearing, Holder was grilled over his role as Deputy Attorney General in Bill Clinton's administration in a handful of controversial Clinton pardons. The panel also dug at him for lobbying on behalf of telecom giant Global Crossing after the company went belly up in 2002. Global Crossing incurred millions in debt. The Republican National Committee first brought this up and claimed it would push to make it a campaign issue in the 2008 election, because Holder was an advisor to the Obama campaign. The RNC didn't say just what the issue was. It didn't matter since the issue was really to hit Holder, on any and everything it could to sully Obama. Then there was the Elian Gonzalez case. In 1999 Cuban leaders in Florida were furious at Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno for enforcing a court order requiring that the 6-year-old Gonzalez be removed from his relatives' home in Miami's Little Havana and returned to Cuba. Holder took some heat for enforcing the court order.
The same year Holder drew more fire for his role in approving the clemency request for 16 members of the radical Puerto Rican independence group FALN, convicted of a string of terrorist bombings and murders. The FBI, Bureau of Prisons and U.S. state attorneys opposed clemency for the 16. Holder refused to comment on what part he played in the clemency action. This charge against him also went nowhere.
Holder was overwhelmingly confirmed as AG. But there was always the sense that GOP leaders were just watching, waiting, and marking time until they could pounce on him again. He was clearly seen as a pawn in their relentless attack plan on Obama. If they could discredit, taint, and tarnish Holder for even the most picayune act, it would be another slap at Obama.
Since the GOP got back in the saddle in the House, Holder was back in their gun sights. The issue is Holder's alleged duplicity in the botched ATF's Mexican gun sting operation "fast and furious." The issue is just as partisan politically vengeful as the other GOP ploys to taint Obama through Holder.
The ATF gun sting is nothing new. Former President W. Bush's DOJ ran a similar gun sting a year before Obama took office. The program resumed in 2010 with no evidence that Holder knew all the details or the problems with the sting operation. Many of which as he testified were not disclosed to him by operatives. The program ultimately was not a DOJ operation but a local law enforcement program that should have drawn fire but should not have been blown up into a manic partisan crusade against Holder.
A distressed Holder made that exact point during the sweating he got from Congressional GOP attackers when he bluntly called the attacks "politically motivated gotcha games." The implication is that the attacks are just another in the saber rattle against him and by extension Obama. Holder has enough GOP partisan lashes on his back to know that no matter how many facts he cites to bolster his case that he didn't know or certainly approve any illicit doings in the sting operation, the issue won't go away. The GOP will toss out empty threats such as demands for his firing, or resignation, and even talk about impeachment. It won't happen. But it's media catchy and sensational enough to keep Holder on the hot seat. The issue will be bandied about even more in 2012 to paint Holder as an incompetent, conniving political hack who supposedly typifies the poor and untrustworthy judgment of Obama in picking his political appointees.
Holder has tried to stay out front of the GOP attack dogs by spending hours in testimony before the GOP controlled House panels. He has repeatedly publicly admitted that mistakes were made, calling the ATF's tactics "unacceptable," and has accepted blame for them, calling them "inexcusable." But with the start of the 2012 presidential election weeks away and with the GOP's manic vow to make Obama a one term president, if the GOP can keep the heat on Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, and an official close to Obama, it will serve as a red herring to toss more mud on Obama and hope that it sticks. In the end the hit on Holder is no different than the others. It's a hit on Obama.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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