Newsweek is reporting that President-elect Obama has tapped former Clinton Deputy AG Eric Holder to be his new AG. Despite my general desire that the AG’s party should be different than the party in power, I think it’s a good choice: Holder is a very professional guy, experienced at running the department, a former judge, and a tough anti-corruption prosecutor. People in the US Attorney’s Office in LA had great respect for him.
Expect the right wing outrage machine to quickly spring into action. They will insist that Holder was somehow involved with Clinton’s last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Don’t believe a word of it. The “evidence” that they will offer for this is a “report” generated by the House Government Reform Committee chaired by that paragon of nonpartisan judiciousness, Dan Burton.
Essentially, what happened was that Rich’s attorneys came to Holder in the waning days (hours?) of the Clinton Administration with the pardon request. Holder didn’t know much about it, and he referred them to White House Counsel Jack Quinn (updated). Yes, Rich was a fugitive, but Holder didn’t know anything about the case, so he didn’t express an opinion.
That’s it. That’s the whole thing. That’s what is going to get Limbaugh, and Hannity, and Fox Noise, and O’Reilly, and all of them so shocked, shocked, about the appointment.
It’s garbage. They know it’s garbage. And everyone should be ready to push back hard. This is the first test of whether they can work the refs against Obama like they did against Clinton. Don’t let them.
UPDATE: Jack Quinn was in fact a former White House counsel who was representing Rich, and according to the federal prosecutor who worked the Rich case, Quinn probably withheld information from Holder. Holder was in fact asked about it by the White House counsel, and said he didn’t know much about it: “neutral, leaning toward favorable” but assumed that it was being worked by the regular DOJ pardon attorney. The best description of all the events is here. At its most sinister interpretation, Holder made a mistake. At its most reasonable, Holder should have followed up and didn’t realize that it wasn’t going through regular channels.
To suggest anything darker is right-wing agitprop; no concessions need to be made here. We should simply say this: “anyone who supported the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence is in no position to criticize Eric Holder.”
By the way: who was another one of Rich’s attorneys? I. Lewis Libby.