When President Obama spoke Thursday on the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, he began his formal remarks by quoting Bobby Kennedy, “on this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law.”
The president segued from RFK to Holder thusly, “As one of the longest-serving attorney generals in American history, Eric Holder has borne that burden.” At first blush, the Kennedy-Holder connection might seem like a stretch.
For starters, Bobby Kennedy was a novice Attorney General compared to the seasoned Eric Holder. Viewed objectively, RFK’s credentials for the position were so thin you could see right through them. However, he had the one qualification that trumped all others. He was President Kennedy’s brother and trusted political advisor.
Although Obama and Holder are not brothers, they are certainly kindred spirits, and close friends of many years. Like JFK did with RFK, President Obama has relied on Attorney General Holder for advice in matters far transcending the Justice Department. My guess is he will continue to do so, given his stipulation that “Eric has agreed to stay on as Attorney General until I nominate a successor, and that successor is confirmed by the Senate.”
The timing of Holder’s resignation is curious, too. It may reflect concern over the outcome of the upcoming Senate elections, and the Democrat’s fear that Republicans may win control of the Senate. If their fears are realized, that could complicate the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee to succeed Holder, unless they can “squeeze” it in during the “lame-duck” session.
Holder is the man who made history when he became the first African American to head the Justice Department in 2009. He has since made history as one of the most controversial men to hold that post. In 2012, he was found in contempt of Congress for rebuffing a subpoena for Justice Department documents regarding the infamous and failed sting “Operation Fast and Furious,” even though an inspector general’s report on the operation cited “misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment, and management failures” by the Justice Department. Holder was no stranger to controversy before, during, and after being found in contempt of Congress. He is an activist by nature, who sometimes acts like the Constitution is some kind of metaphorical menu, from which he can pick and choose what he likes and reject the rest.
A key question here is “What’s next for Eric Holder?” One theory making the rounds is Holder would like to become a Supreme Court Justice. The very thought brings glee to liberals and gloom to conservatives.
That said, if Holder does have Supreme Court aspirations, and if President Obama were inclined to nominate him, he would first have to persuade a current member, say, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 81, who has held her seat since Aug. 10, 1993, to step aside. Given all President Obama’s other pressing problems, that may be “a bridge too far,” even for his faithful friend and loyal attorney general.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.