The calls have begun for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s resignation. Potential Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty both took that position last weekend in response to last week’s embarrassing result in the trial of Guantanamo terrorist detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailiani. Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Pawlenty won’t be the only prominent politicos reaching the conclusion that Mr. Holder is unfit for the office he holds.
With Republicans getting oversight authority through their new House majority, the attorney general’s conduct in numerous controversies will attract increasingly fierce criticism, especially on Capitol Hill. Deservedly so. Under Mr. Holder’s stewardship, the Justice Department has been not just politicized, but radicalized. On issue after issue, it has tried to redefine the law on its own, without clear legislative authority and sometimes in clear defiance of legislative intent.
Consider the case of Ghailiani. Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, a law providing for military commissions to try enemy combatants. Experts warned that trying these terrorist suspects in normal courts would be fraught with problems. Mr. Holder defiantly insisted on using ordinary courts anyway and specifically said the Ghailiani trial would be the test case to prove him right. Instead, Federal District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled key evidence inadmissible, and the jury acquitted Ghailiani on 284 of 285 counts. This terrorist was involved in bombing two American embassies and almost escaped scot-free.
Among the other controversies in Mr. Holder’s brief 22-month tenure is one in which an already-guilty perpetrator did walk scot-free: Black Panther Jerry Jackson, against whom no sanctions were imposed after his violent voter intimidation in Philadelphia. Yet the New Black Panther case was child’s play compared to testimony about broader policy that grew from that case. Mr. Holder’s department stands accused of refusing to enforce two different provisions of federal voting laws. Separately, evidence indicates Justice was tardy or negligent in ensuring that overseas military personnel had a timely opportunity to vote.
On the other hand, when the black-majority town of Kinston, N.C., voted to hold its municipal elections in nonpartisan fashion, Mr. Holder’s minions threw out that election on the theory that only by having Democrats identified on the ballot could that same black majority elect its real “candidates of choice.” How condescending.
Mr. Holder is contemptuous of other duly enacted legislation as well. Obama administration arguments in a homosexual “marriage” case deliberately undercut the federal Defense of Marriage Act. On immigration, the Justice Department is suing the state of Arizona for daring to pass an act enabling local police and sheriffs to enforce provisions modeled directly on existing federal law.
When congressmen demand answers on the Black Panther matter or on how many of the department’s lawyers once represented terrorist detainees or on several other matters, Mr. Holder stiffs them. When an independent agency subpoenas department attorneys, he orders the attorneys - to their own detriment - to ignore the lawful subpoenas. This is a man who acts as a law unto himself.
For all these reasons, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Pawlenty are calling for the attorney general’s ouster. Mr. Holder’s defenders, by contrast, are hard-pressed to show any benefits from his tenure.