- - Thursday, April 10, 2014

Patriotism is no longer the last refuge of scoundrels, as Dr. Johnson observed. The last refuge now is an odd strain of racism.

The election of the first black president was supposed to end all that. Barack Obama campaigned on bringing about a “post-racial” society. Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., demonstrates how this is an administration that just can’t get beyond race, even when nearly everyone else is trying to.

Speaking at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network on Wednesday, Mr. Holder complained about his treatment in a congressional hearing at the hands of Rep. Louie Gohmert. Mr. Gohmert, Texas Republican, had chided the Justice Department for its failure to turn over documents to congressional investigators, observing that the attorney general acted like it was “not a big deal” to be held in contempt of Congress.

That irritated Mr. Holder no end. The Obama administration had made “significant strides and lasting reforms” over the past five years, Mr. Holder replied, “even in the face … of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly adversity.”

” … What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?” He went on: “What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?” The implication was that all criticism of the administration is racist.

Earlier presidents and their attorneys general could tell Mr. Holder a lot about “unprecedented and unwarranted adversity.” Critics on the left were so outraged by George W. Bush that the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was coined to describe their hysteria. Democrats gave “that kind of treatment” to Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Sen. Harry Reid demanded Mr. Gonzales’ resignation when he fired eight U.S. attorneys in 2006. Many of those same Democrats had stood by silently in 1993 while President Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, fired 93 U.S. attorneys at one fell swoop. Mr. Bush didn’t accuse Mr. Reid of racism because his attorney general was a Hispanic. Several towns in liberal Vermont threatened to arrest Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney for “crimes against our Constitution.”

On what should have been a festive occasion Tuesday, baseball great Hank Aaron sullied the 40th anniversary of his breaking of Babe Ruth’s career home-run record with racial politics. Now 80, the Atlanta Braves slugger conceded that race relations had improved since the days when a few baseball bigots didn’t want to see a black man eclipse the Babe — but in Mr. Aaron’s view, the times hadn’t improved much. Mr. Aaron likened Republican opponents of the president to Klansmen, except “back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

“Sure this country has a black president,” Mr. Aaron told USA Today, “but … President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all the Republicans with the way he’s treated.” Mr. Aaron should read a little history. All presidents get roughed up from time to time. It’s as American as a grand slam home run.

Hammerin’ Hank’s homers were legitimate and free of steroids. His record-breaking achievement is respected by all, even if it’s politically incorrect (racist?) to point out that he had 3,965 more at-bats than the Babe. Hank Aaron’s respect was earned, and that’s a lesson lost on the president and his attorney general.