In the Daily Beast, Nick Gillespie explains why Eric Holder may not be the worst attorney general ever, but he’s doing exactly what an attorney general is expected to do — taking heat off the president:
Eric Holder may not be the worst attorney general in American history, but he is the most recent — which amounts to nearly the same thing.
Despite its exalted status as the nation’s “top cop,” the job is best understood as a dumping ground for intermittently competent bulldogs who take out the president’s trash and act as his public-relations human shield. That was the basic duty of George W. Bush’s troika of torture apologists: John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and Michael Mukasey. Ashcroft went so far after the 9/11 attacks as to argue that dissent itself verged on the unconstitutional.
[. . .]
There’s no reason to believe that Holder will be sent packing anytime soon or that he’s somehow at cross-purposes with the president. Obama has voiced nothing but support for his attorney general, which means that there’s every reason to keep questioning Holder’s truthfulness. One of his first actions upon taking office was to underscore the Obama administration’s position that federal resources would not be targeted at medical-marijuana users and providers who complied with laws in states where the stuff is legal. The result? A record number of raids against medical-marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere in Obama’s “war on weed.” And yet Holder continues to insist, as he did last year before Congress, that “we limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals and organizations that are acting out of conformity with state laws.” So Holder is either out of touch with reality or following a script scribbled together in the Oval Office. Neither prospect is comforting given that Obama’s DOJ has yet to state its position regarding the full legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington state.
It’s daunting to remember that Holder served as a deputy attorney general in Janet Reno’s Justice Department during the Clinton years. What lessons in self-preservation and executive-branch overreach might he have learned under Reno, the second-longest-serving attorney general in American history and surely one of the worst?
Recall that Reno was at best Clinton’s third pick for the position, being selected only after his first two selections were undone by revelations that they had employed illegal aliens as nannies. Reno’s tenure was marked by horrifyingly misguided law-enforcement debacles such as the deadly standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, and the armed raid to separate 6-year-old Elián González from his American relatives and return him to his father in Cuba. But she held on as a political lightning rod, absorbing political punishment before it could reach her boss.