Being Eric Holder

Being Eric Holder

By Rich Lowry - May 29, 2013

President Barack Obama has been mocked for learning about untoward conduct in his administration from the press. But he’s on the ball compared with his attorney general, who wouldn’t know about his own poor judgment without reading about it in the papers. Let’s hope he has a Google alert set for “Eric Holder.”

The website the Daily Beast interviewed the attorney general and Justice Department officials for a piece about how the AG is holding up in the firestorm over two controversial Justice Department leak investigations, one into the Associated Press, the other into Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The Daily Beast piece pinpoints when Eric Holder had a crisis of conscience leading him to question his leak-investigating ways. The Washington Post had made inquiries at the Justice Department about the investigation into Rosen stemming from a 2009 leak, and the department’s press office had begun to ready itself for the storm. For Eric Holder, though, “the gravity of the situation didn’t fully sink in until Monday morning when he read the Post’s front-page story, sitting at his kitchen table.”

Then, the awful realization hit him that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for him to sign off on an affidavit portraying a member of the press — particularly a member of the press from a news organization scorned and attacked by the White House — as practically an agent of a foreign power. Perhaps it wasn’t so wise, after all, to identify Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a crime. Come to think of it, it might have been ill-advised to track his movements in and out of the State Department building that he covered and to read his e-mails.

Yes, Eric Holder was beginning to wonder whether Eric Holder had made the right call. Eric Holder is typically very supportive of Eric Holder, but in this case, Eric Holder had his doubts. “Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by twin leak probes,” the Daily Beast relates, “but according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.”

That creeping sense of remorse may get worse if Eric Holder gets around to reading in the papers that Congress is investigating whether Eric Holder lied to it under oath. (If the controversy gets any worse, the Justice Department might want to assign an aide to clipping out stories in the papers about Eric Holder before Eric Holder gets a chance to read them in the morning — just to keep his spirits up.) It turns out that Eric Holder did indeed make a false representation about Eric Holder.

Representative Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) pointed out to the attorney general that reporters could potentially be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, and closed his interrogation with the clear trap: “I’ll yield the balance of my time to you.” Unable to find any way to wiggle free from this killer line of questioning, Eric Holder said, “With regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.” Eric Holder had plumb forgot that Eric Holder might have signed off on such a thing. Timing is everything: If only theWashington Post had published earlier!

What Eric Holder has done is so troubling to everyone, including Eric Holder, that President Obama has ordered a review of Justice Department policy — to be undertaken by the single most appropriate man for such a task: Eric Holder. Eric Holder has a tight July 12 deadline to report back on Eric Holder. Let’s hope he can manage to be fair-minded to Eric Holder, despite his bitter disappointment upon learning of his practices. An unidentified friend told the Daily Beast, “Look, Eric sees himself fundamentally as a progressive, not some Torquemada out to silence the press.”

And why would he want to silence the press? It’s how he keeps up with Eric Holder. 

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review.

Rich Lowry

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