February 8th, 2010

Is Holder about to be tossed?

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.

26 Responses to “Is Holder about to be tossed?”

  1. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sorry, neo, gotta disagree. I’ve got Holder in the dead pool.

    Your assessment of Holder’s role as Obama’s Charlie McCarthy/flak-catcher is absolutely correct, but flak-catchers eventually wear out, much like brake shoes, and have to replaced. Holder will go when the KSM trial gets moved back to Gitmo.

    The only thing that could save Holder is Obama’s friendship and loyalty. I am laughing as I type that. Obama knew Jeremiah Wright a lot longer than he’s known Holder, and he’s got bus tire marks over his T-shirt.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: we are certainly not in complete disagreement. As I said, I think if things get really bad, Obama will cut him loose. But I don’t think they have reached that level.

  3. huxley Says:

    As I noted yesterday Jeremiah Wright met the bus only after he started bad-mouthing Obama.

    Otherwise I’ve yet to see Obama perform the bus maneuver on any high-profile inner circle person. For bisquick’s sake, Robert Gibbs is still around!

    I agree with neo that Holder is too much of a like mind and soul to Obama.

    Furthermore, removing Holder is a huge admission that Obama’s whole criminal approach to terrorism is wrong and needs to be junked and replaced. But with what?

    Obama is nowhere near such an admission.

  4. huxley Says:

    Also dumping the Attorney General after only twelve months reinforces the disastrous impression that everyone is picking up that Obama is a poor executive and maybe the wheels are coming off his administration.

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    We’re all pretty much in agreement. To be clear, I don’t think Holder is done now, but will be in the next year.

    The Obamanauts are trying to find another venue for the KSM trial. NIMBYism will reach a new apogee. Cost estimates will be staggering just for security and controlling leftist demonstrators (you know they will come), and of course American civil rights will then attach. The only viable option on American soil wil be a military base – which can’t say no – but at that point, why not just have it at Gitmo?

    At some point Obama is going to have to climb down on the KSM trial and put it back in Gitmo. You’re right, Huxley, that is going to constitute a huge admission that the whole criminal justice approach is wrong. Obama won’t just get rid of Holder, he’ll get rid of Holder coupled with moving the trial back to Gitmo. Ideally, for Obama, Holder can be induced to resign in protest and thereby take the weight for the original decision. Otherwise, he’ll be “pursuing other opportunities” or “spending more time with his family.”

    Someone will have to carry the can for that shift in policy. Eric, the red dot is on your forehead.

  6. expat Says:

    This piece via Real Clear Politics talks about the need for Obama to replace his inner circle (Axelrod, Emanuel, Jarrett, and Gibbs) and casts some doubt on his ability to do so. I found the comments “interesting” in their superficiality and concentration on traditional leftist issues.


    I believe these people would never forgive a forthright change of direction on the handling of terrorists, and this is a base Obama will offend only in extremis. Besides, he has been so convinced that the poor terrorists are only responding to our failure to be perfect, he really would have to admit his own mistake to himself and then proclaim it publicly. His admirers have sort of ignored rendition and they aren’t quite sure about the Afghanistan surge. This would probably be the tipping point. And once again you have the black angle.

    He who wiggles so well has not left himself much wiggle room this time.

    I just got my copy of Mark Thiessen’s Courting Disaster today, and he reported at NRO that it is #6 on the WaPo’s bestseller list. This could strengthen opposition to the civil justice approach. We’ll have to wait and see.

  7. huxley Says:

    Here’s Obama still holding up his little flag up for the KSM in NYC:

    KATIE COURIC Have you ruled out trying confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in New York City?

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have not ruled it out, but I think it’s important for us to take into account the practical, logistical issues involved.

    Whatever happens with the KSM trial this year, it will damage Obama and the entire underpinnings of his administration’s terrorism policy.

  8. expat Says:


    The response to Couric sounds like he’s trying to don the mantle of pragmatism again. Some day, someone from his side is going to confront him on his inability to analyze complex issues before opening his mouth. He may have a certain cleverness, but his real-world intelligence has been highly overrated.

  9. huxley Says:

    Occam’s Beard: As I recall, you’ve got good company.

    In addition to Jennifer Rubin, both Charles Krauthammer and Victor David Hanson have opined that Obama will bus Holder.

    I think they give Obama too much credit for being a hard-nosed politician. We shall see.

  10. huxley Says:

    expat: Nifty article! I’m still fleshing out Obama’s circle and its larger ecosystem.

    The linked to Luce article has a bang-up finish, which will no doubt elicit groans from some, perhaps from neo herself, as to whether Obama will revamp his inner circle:

    “There is an old joke,” says Mr Gergen. “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one. But the lightbulb must want to change. I don’t think President Obama wants to make any changes.”

    I don’t either.

  11. Mr. Frank Says:

    I don’t think you can overstate the importance of Holder being black to his longevity in the administration.

  12. Cappy Says:

    Holder speaks for Obama. He enunciated the opinion early on that he is an employee of a nation of cowards. What does that make him?

  13. Steve G Says:

    “KATIE COURIC Have you ruled out trying confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in New York City?

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have not ruled it out, but I think it’s important for us to take into account the practical, logistical issues involved.”

    Thanks Huxley for the above post..

    Step back and take this in perspective.

    Obama is holding NYC hostage. WHY?

    NYC is home to maybe a few dozen conservatives who can’t expose their political views for fear of actual physical harm. The city is the epitome of liberalism. It is the home of much of the MSM. NYC liberals look way down their noses at us “fly over country” conservatives, even if we also live in urban centers. These are the people he is putting at risk, and they don’t like it. But while they may think they have the power to block the trial, as did those liberal Cape Cod NIMBYs to keep out those visually objectionable wind turbines, something else is going on. And, it is more than mere indecision. To move the trial from NYC is either Obama’s or Holder’s decision (and either or both of them made the decision to have it there in the first place) and neither seems to be guided by either common sense or political reality. Obama is in the process of deliberately angering his own political base, and I think they are waking up.

    Obama is doing a magical thing, something no one else in the world is capable of doing. He is creating conservatives out of life-long Democrats.

    I don’t think Holder is going to be thrown under the bus because he does a good job of deflecting criticism that should be directed at Obama. It is not a question of friendship, as I don’t think Obama has a friend in the world. It’s familiarity and the deeply liberal views they share in common. It is also a calculated judgment to dance with the gal that brung him (and that gal includes Emanuel, Jarrett, Gibbs and Axelrod) and continue to do the job as if all it involved was making campaign speeches.

    Making presidential decisions is hard.

  14. SAB Says:

    Obama and Holder…Twin brothers of different mothers…no racial pun intended.

  15. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Count me among those who see Holder being retained by Obama for the foreseeable future. As neo said, Obama will not hesitate to get rid of anyone, should the need arise with the exception of course of Michelle. The KSM debacle however is not seen by Obama as politically embarrassing but rather as having to yield to fearful liberals like Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Feinstein.

    Obama agrees with Holder and despite Holder’s claim of responsibility, almost certainly gave the go-ahead to Holder to hold the KSM trial in NYC.

    There are highly placed officials in the Obama administration who are on the knife’s edge; Homeland Security’s Napolitano and Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan and Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings come to mind, should events go awry they are much more vulnerable than Holder.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    OK, I’ll nail my colors to the mast. Holder: an unemployment statistic by the midterm election.

    Again, to be clear, I mean out as AG. Ambassador to Tierra del Fuego, etc., counts as unemployed. Deal? /g

  17. betsybounds Says:

    He will not be missed.

  18. Occam's Beard Says:

    Geoff, Napolitano and Jennings are indeed vulnerable, but Obama needs to keep them for a while as his rear guard (sorry) from the homosexuals, who are incensed by his dithering on don’t ask don’t tell.

    Also they’re below the radar right now. Another terrrorist attack and Napolitano is toast, but failing that, she’s OK for the time being. If the media were to start actually doing their jobs, Jennings (and Napolitano, for that matter) would be toast, too, so he’s got little to worry about, unless Fox draws a bead on him (or her).

    I think that, paradoxically, Holder’s race works against him, because Obama is insulated from charges of racism, but not from those of “homophobia.” It would take a lot to turn the brothers against Obama (cue Van Jones here), whereas homosexuals are already muttering about betrayal.

  19. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think they give Obama too much credit for being a hard-nosed politician.

    Agreed, but it’s nothing to do with Obama. Soros will make a phone call. Holder will clean out his desk. Eight ball in the side pocket. Obama is only the cue ball, nothing more.

  20. huxley Says:

    OK, I’ll nail my colors to the mast. Holder: an unemployment statistic by the midterm election.

    Occam’s Beard: You’re the man for me, sir. No beating about the bush, right to the point. Let’s talk about the black bird, by all means.

    Er… sorry … spaced out for a moment there.

    But yes, I appreciate the straight talk and straight wagering.

    I’ll dive in and say that Holder will survive ’til after the mid-terms.

    But after that I think Obama may grow so desperate that anything could happen, even to his inner circle and Holder.

  21. Occam's Beard Says:

    You’re the man for me, sir. No beating about the bush, right to the point.

    Yeah, hux, I’m too stupid to equivocate. My reasoning is that Obama will have to make some decision by November, that that decision will entail moving the KSM trial back to Gitmo, and that that will necessitate that Holder take one for the team.

  22. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    You might be right Occam, I suspect we would all acknowledge that, it’s more a matter of assessing the odds with the understanding that external events could overturn the applecart and create a whole new paradigm.

    If nothing untoward should happen, some of us assess Holder’s likelihood of surviving past the midterms as probable. Which is not to say that we don’t hope you’re right; I certainly do… Holder’s an affront to all that America’s best have aspired to…

  23. Occam's Beard Says:

    Fair enough, Geoff. For my part, obviously I could be wrong. I’m staking out an extreme position based on my guess that the choice of the KSM venue will drive events, and will have to take place before the midterm elections.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this plays out…

  24. expat Says:

    VDH is calling for Brennan to go. That move could give Holder a bit of cover for a while. I personally would prefer to see that whole bunch go,


  25. Oh, bother Says:

    If (per huxley) the wheels are coming off this administration then the next guy to be thrown under the bus is gonna hurt. huxley, this opinion’s for you: If Holder’s next letter is as well-written and reasoned as was the letter he wrote Mitch McConnell, he’s going under the bus, and it’s gonna hurt.

  26. RickZ Says:

    While I think Obama and Holder are on the same page ideologically, I also think Obama has no friends, not even Michelle, which is why Obama can and will throw Holder under that bus. I think Obama views everyone as a prop and how that prop will aid him in his goals (like having a black wife, whom he married in a black church, and where he had his two black daughters baptized). I’m not sure we’ve ever had a more mercenary president.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge