This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published October 3, 2014 on The Washington Times website.
For six years, Eric Holder Jr. has built a legacy that delights liberals and appalls conservatives, especially those who revere the Constitution.
Right out of the box, during Black History Month in 2009, Mr. Holder accused his countrymen of being “a nation of cowards” on racial matters. He followed that up by dropping charges against nightstick-wielding New Black Panther Party members who had been caught on video intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
Since then, he has operated the Justice Department as a blunt political instrument to reward Mr. Obama’s friends and punish his opponents, running roughshod over the rule of law.
On Sept. 25, Mr. Holder announced that he would resign as soon as President Obama appoints a successor. These are big shoes to fill. To help understand what the job might entail, here’s a handy classified ad:
“Wanted: Nominee for U.S. attorney general. Must have thick skin in case Congress finds in contempt; adept at using redacted version of Constitution regarding separation of powers; proficient at forgetting oath to uphold laws; must regard terrorist suspects as no more than criminal suspects; must view illegal aliens as undocumented U.S. citizens; must view world through racially tinted glasses; must be able, with straight face, to compare common-sense election safeguards like voter photo ID laws to racist Jim Crow-era abominations; must subordinate all other civil rights to ‘gay rights’; must ignore Internal Revenue Service’s criminal targeting of conservative groups and leaking confidential tax returns; must ignore IRS’ rewriting of Obamacare subsidies, and believe agency’s claim of inability to recover ‘lost’ emails of key personnel such as Lois Lerner; must be able to harass reporters and whistleblowers without ticking off ACLU too much.”
There’s a bit more, because these are, well, big shoes to fill: Must be able to make colorful, Chicago-style threats to cheeky congressmen who ask too many questions about such things as the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal; must be conversant in zingers such as “You don’t want to go there, buddy.”
In his book Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department, former department Voting Section attorney J. Christian Adams describes the Civil Rights Division under Mr. Holder as “a soap opera, within a cabal, surrounded by a racialist culture of dysfunction.” Elsewhere, he describes the “racial bias and left-wing extremism that pervade the institution.”
In December 2009, Mr. Adams’ boss, Voting Section chief H. Christopher Coates, a former ACLU lawyer, stepped down and left Washington for the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina. In May 2010, Mr. Adams resigned, accusing Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights nominee Thomas E. Perez of providing false testimony under oath about racially selective law enforcement at the department. Mr. Perez, who was confirmed and later went on to become secretary of labor, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Holder.
Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Coates testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and to Congress, noting that Justice attorneys had been told to ignore voting-law violation complaints filed by non-minorities.
In 2009, at a farewell party upon his reassignment to South Carolina, Mr. Coates gave a jeremiad about the Department of Justice losing its way:
“One of these most basic standards is equal protection under the law. When that is violated, America does not live up to the true meaning of its creed. For the Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act only to protect members of certain minority groups breaches the fundamental guarantee of equal protection, and could substantially erode public support for the Voting Rights Act itself.”
Not just the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Holder’s refusal in 2011 to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and even to instruct department attorneys to undermine it in the federal courts showed utter contempt for not only the rule of law, but for the nation’s lawmakers. The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 with overwhelming votes of 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House, and was signed by President Clinton.
Fifteen years later, Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder decided they didn’t like the law and refused to enforce it, violating their oaths of office to uphold federal statutes. This was the first strong signal that the Obama administration would treat the law as little more than a suggestion, depending on which constituency it was favoring.
Mr. Obama himself has a long record of lawlessness and overreach, and it could not have been assembled without his enabler at Justice.
Mr. Holder will be missed by the people who view Mr. Obama’s reign as “payback time” and who are intent on abusing the law to advance their goal of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
For the rest of us, we can breathe a sigh of relief — until the next ideologue lands in the attorney general’s seat.