Hatchet Job on Eric Holder in the NYT

The New York Times’ David Cay Johnston is an excellent reporter (as shown by these two books), but he really gives us a clunker in tomorrow’s paper about AG-designate Eric Holder. (Updated below–there are two David Johnstons!).

Ostensibly, the article shows that Holder was “more deeply involved” in Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich than “his supporters acknowledge.” So what’s the news?

Well, nothing really. No new story. Nothing different from what was already known before. In fact, much of the story derives from Dan Burton’s 2002 Congressional “report” on the matter. Holder talked about the issue with Jack Quinn, the former White House counsel who then represented Rich, and gave the judgment–“neutral, leaning toward favorable”–that he has since acknowledged was a mistake.

Look, when Federalist Society founder Steve Calabresi says that this isn’t a problem, then it’s really grasping at straws to keep pushing it.

Let’s just say that Johnston had a bad day. But there have to be better ways to have a bad day than getting your stories from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Update: The laugher of the piece actually comes from Congressional wingnut Lamar Smith, who claims that “If a Republican had engaged in this kind of behavior, he never would have received Senate confirmation.”

Unless, of course, he was Bush’s first-term Assistant AG for OLC Jay Bybee, who signed off on John Yoo’s torture memos, and was confirmed as a judge on the Ninth Circuit. Or Alberto Gonzales, who was confirmed as Attorney General. Is Smith living in an alternative universe, or does he just know that he can play the press for all it’s worth?

Somewhat Sheepish Update: Turns out that there are two David Johnstons at the NYT. The one with the “Cay” in the middle did not co-write this piece; the other one did. I’m not familiar in detail with the record of the middle name-less one. This isn’t a good sign, however.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.