In this post’s comment thread there was a discussion of whether President Obama is making some room under that crowded bus for his Attorney General Eric Holder. Jennifer Rubin has written a piece speculating that this might indeed be the case, citing the fact that Rahm Emanuel has gone on record as distancing himself from the controversial decisions made by Holder in the KSM trial and the Christmas bomber interrogations.
In my post on the subject, I wrote “Holder is a proxy for Obama himself.” Commenter “RickZ” responded:
No offense, neo, but every presidential cabinet appointment is a proxy for the President himself, that’s the nature of the beast at these rarefied positions.
So I would like to clarify: by using the word “proxy” in Holder’s case, I meant something different than the usual Cabinet appointee, the usual presidential representative. I could be wrong about this, but my gut senses a close identification between Obama and Holder, an almost-Vulcan-mind-meld between them on the legal issues involved in fighting terrorism. This is not a compliment to either man; I think both are sadly misguided.
Holder serves a purpose for Obama. If there is an issue on which the President is somewhat loathe to express his opinion fully, perhaps because he knows it will be unpopular or controversial, I believe that Obama purposely uses Holder as cover, to draw the opposition’s criticism and deflect it from himself.
Perhaps the proper word for the relationship might be “surrogate” or “mouthpiece.” This is not to say that Holder does not have opinions of his own. I am not claiming he is a puppet. But his opinions are so closely in sync with Obama’s on these issues that for all intents and purposes they are one.
For this reason, I disagree strongly with those who think Holder is about to go. I suppose Obama might sacrifice him if it becomes necessary for strategic reasons (after all, he’s been known to do such a thing). If the decisions they both support because so unpopular Obama feels the need to disassociate himself from Holder and use him as scapegoat, it will happen. But this would only occur in the most extreme of situations, because Obama is so wedded to these views himself, and they are completely integral to his own attitude about the legal status and treatment of terrorists.
Holder is also no ordinary Cabinet appointee for Obama. They have known each other since 2004, the year Obama first achieved a national profile. The two met at “a dinner party hosted by former White House aide Anne Walker Marchange, niece of Clinton friend Vernon Jordan.” Very soon after declaring himself a candidate in early 2007, Obama requested that Holder be part of his campaign, and “Holder served as a legal adviser and strategist and led Obama’s vice presidential search committee.”
Holder is a trusted adviser and member of Obama’s inner circle. It probably doesn’t hurt, either, that Holder is a graduate of Columbia and a former basketball player, much like Obama. But it’s their common attitude towards law that creates the strongest bond between the men. As Holder says, “We are on the same page.”
And I don’t think Obama is eager to turn that page.