Feature

Holder: His seat is getting warm

The embattled attorney general has become “a lightning rod” for controversy.

Eric Holder’s career may be “in a death spiral,” said Ashby Jones in WSJ.com. The embattled attorney general has become the Obama administration’s version of Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—“a lightning rod” for controversy. “Just about everything he has touched has backfired,” said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. Foolishly, Holder decided to reopen an investigation of CIA employees who had interrogated terrorists during the Bush administration, “opening a serious, ongoing rift between the Justice Department and the intelligence community.” Just 50 minutes into the FBI’s questioning of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Holder decided that it was time to read a foreign terrorist his Miranda rights. The attorney general has also “failed to articulate reasons” why his department wants to try some accused terrorists in civilian courts and others in military tribunals. No wonder Washington pundits now consider Holder “the most endangered member of the Obama Cabinet.”

If that’s so, said Marc Ambinder in TheAtlantic.com, Holder is taking fire that should be properly directed at his boss. The decision to reopen the investigation into CIA interrogators came from President Obama, not from Holder, who warned at the time that it could backfire—“which it did.” The current spate of hand-wringing over how best to prosecute suspected terrorists is occurring in the White House, not the Justice Department—where Eric Holder is still waiting for guidance. As for reading Abdulmutallab his rights, that decision was made by senior intelligence officials. Holder’s only real mistake is being the Right’s favorite scapegoat.

Eric Holder certainly has his share of enemies, said Eva Rodriguez in WashingtonPost.com, but the biggest one may be his own mouth. While testifying before a congressional panel last week, Holder made the “bizarre comment” that Osama bin Laden would never be captured alive, so there’s no point discussing how he’d be interrogated. I suspect Holder’s attempt at machismo was just “overcompensation for the political beatings of late,” but it compelled Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, to deny that his troops have given up bringing bin Laden to justice. “Wow. No,” the general said. If Holder’s political instincts don’t improve, and quickly, there are plenty more such beatings heading his way.

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