EDITORIAL: Eric Holder, you’re no Martin Luther King

The attorney general strikes a shameful pose

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Eric Holder, who gets more headlines than any other member of the president’s Cabinet, and usually for the wrong things, confuses celebrity with credibility. He imagines celebrity makes him a credible champion of civil rights. He’s fond of citing a man whom he seems to regard as his equal as a civil rights pioneer.

But some of us knew Martin Luther King, and Mr. Holder, you’re no Martin Luther King.


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We know Mr. Holder, too, as the attorney general whose office declined to prosecute Black Panthers who attempted to intimidate white voters in Philadelphia, approved the intimidation of the Associated Press, presided over the most sweeping collection of information on private citizens in the nation’s history, and authorized the killing of an American citizen by drone attack, depriving him of his civil rights.

Mr. Holder used his speech to the annual meeting of the NAACP in Orlando on Wednesday as a forum to denounce the very concept of self-defense, as written in the “stand your ground” laws in 30 states, a concept as old as the republic.

“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” he told cheering delegates assembled from across the nation.

As the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, Mr. Holder knows the grim statistics of lawlessness in America that encourage communities to put up gates and hire watchmen to stand against the robbers and thieves who steal the night from the innocent and the law-abiding.

He invoked George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin as applause lines to bring the audience to its feet. So what would Mr. Holder have the innocent standing to confront an intruder in his home at 3 o’clock in the morning do? The cheers were bought on the cheap.

Mr. Holder borrowed the history of the civil rights movement, whose burdens were endured by an earlier generation, to tell a story of how he instructed his son how to behave if stopped by a policeman. It’s the advice that every responsible father, black or white, impresses on a son.


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The story, however touching, is irrelevant to a conversation about the Zimmerman shooting. There was no policeman in the story of what happened on that rainy night. Warning his son to distrust the police is no more appropriate than a white father warning his son to be suspicious of every black teenager in a hoodie. This is race-baiting, unworthy of America’s top law enforcement official.

The attorney general has a bully pulpit to look beyond the tragedy at hand to begin the “national conversation on race” he often prescribes. Such a conversation would in fact be useful; a national lecture would only make everything worse.

Mr. Holder might start such a conversation with the citation of a passage from a speech by Martin Luther King in St. Louis two years before his great speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the March on Washington five decades ago. Do you know, he asked the congregation, that blacks are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58 percent of its crimes? That nine of 10 murdered blacks are murdered by blacks? “We’ve got to face that,” he said. “And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards. We know there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.” Hard truths, spoken with the power and eloquence of a Baptist preacher.

Eric Holder, posing as a civil-rights champion in the mold of Martin Luther King, venerated by nearly all Americans now as a man for all seasons, is just that, a pose by a much smaller man. Eric Holder should be ashamed of himself.

The Washington Times

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