The attorney general's gambit of distraction.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder played the race card in front a friendly audience at the annual convention of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, held in New York on April 9th. He complained that members of Congress seeking to hold him accountable for his gross dereliction of duty were engaging in “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive” attacks on him and the Obama administration. He delivered this poppycock a day after he sparred with Republican congressmen over his truth-challenged behavior.
“The last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity,” Holder said. “If you don’t believe that, you look at the way — forget about me, forget about me. You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee — has nothing to do with me, forget that. What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
Holder has only himself and the president whom he serves to blame. Their stonewalling makes Richard Nixon look like an amateur.
Holder wears a chip on his shoulder, using the excuse of race that he thinks entitles him and his boss to be insulated from any accountability. Indeed, Holder set his race-baiting tone very early in President Obama’s first term when he accused the American people of being "essentially a nation of cowards" in dealing with the race issue – just three months after the American people elected the nation’s first black president.
In 2011, during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the voting rights case involving members of the New Black Panther Party who had intimidated voters at a polling location in Philadelphia, Holder justified the decision not to pursue their prosecution in racially charged terms: “When you compare what people endured in the South in the ‘60s to try to get the right to vote for African-Americans, to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia … to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people,” Holder said. (Emphasis added.) Silly us for thinking that Holder was supposed to serve all of the American people as their Attorney General.
Holder has stonewalled any inquiries into what led to this decision, including refusing to address allegations that his Deputy Assistant Attorney General had instructed her subordinates to focus their civil rights investigations on black victims while ignoring white victims of racist acts.
Holder’s pattern of stonewalling has extended beyond just race-related cases. Operation Fast and Furious, the botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation which had put guns into the hands of members of drug cartels in Mexico, is a case in point. It was conducted in the hope that the ultimate destination of the guns could be traced. Instead, the guns were turned loose, resulting in the death of at least one U.S. federal agent, Brian Terry.
Holder first denied in 2011 that he or other senior staffers at the Justice Department had any prior knowledge of the operation. However, when evidence began to surface that he had in fact received memos about the operation as early as 2010, Holder began his evasive tactics that impeded a full-scale congressional investigation as to what exactly happened and at what levels of authority the operation had been sanctioned.
Holder was cited for contempt of Congress in 2012 for failing to turn over subpoenaed Justice Department internal emails relevant to a possible cover up of its knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation. Nearly two years later, he still nurses bitterness on how he was treated. During a testy exchange with Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on April 8th, after Gohmert alluded to Holder’s seeming dismissal of the significance of a contempt citation as his Justice Department continues to hinder congressional investigations, Holder angrily protested.
“You don’t want to go there, buddy,” Holder said with contempt of his own directed at a sitting congressman fulfilling Congress’s responsibility for legislative oversight of the Executive Branch. “You don’t want to go there, OK? You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me. I think it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust. But never think that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Gohmert reminded Holder that his Justice Department “has still not been forthcoming in producing the documents that were the subject of the contempt.” Holder could not hold back his derision, sarcastically referring to a trivial gaffe that Gohmert had made at a hearing nearly a year ago rather than deal with the substance of his own continued failure to come clean about what he and his senior staff knew and when they knew it about the Fast and Furious operation and other matters.
“The American people have not been told the truth about what happened in Fast and Furious,” House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday, denying that race had anything to do with Holder’s frosty reception at House hearings. He noted that the Obama administration has also not been “forthcoming” about other scandals. “We’ve been going through all of these hearings, having to hold people in contempt because they’ve made it impossible to get to the documents. They owe the American people the truth.”
To add insult to injury, Holder has been sitting on a supposed criminal investigation into the IRS scandal involving the alleged unfair targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny of their applications for tax exempt status. Following the playbook of his decision not to appoint a special counsel to scrutinize what happened with regards to Benghazi, including the alleged “talking points” cover-up, Holder has refused to appoint an independent special counsel to investigate the IRS’s shenanigans. Holder continues to claim that the investigation of former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner and others, who may have been involved in the decision-making behind the targeting, is still on-going. He refuses to comment on any aspect of the investigation, including possible discussions between the Department of Justice and Lerner’s attorney regarding the grant of immunity for her testimony. Noting the criminal referral letter regarding Lerner that the House Ways and Means Committee decided to send Holder, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) advised Holder: “If you want to be taken seriously as a top law enforcement official in the country, you better handle this investigation in a way that generates public confidence."
The problem with Representative Gowdy’s advice is that Holder’s boss, President Obama, had no such concern about an honest investigation of the IRS when he told Bill O’Reilly, during an interview held on Super Bowl Sunday, that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.” Had Obama already been briefed on the conclusions of the Department of Justice investigation or, alternatively, was he sending a message to his subordinate as to how he wanted the investigation to come out? Either way, Holder’s refusal to appoint an independent special prosecutor is almost as scandalous as the IRS scandal itself.
Eric Holder has long gone past the date when he should have left office. This isn’t at all about race. It is about integrity and competence, applying the same high standard to all attorneys general, no matter what his or her race may happen to be. Holder has failed this test miserably and is a disgrace to the office of U.S. Attorney General.
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