Holder and the Rich Pardon
Richard Cohen and Ezra Klein are very disturbed by Attorney General-designate Eric Holder’s role in Bill Clinton’s 11th hour pardoning of Marc Rich. Kevin Drum finds Holder’s role “disturbing” but not disqualifying and hopes he’s learned his lesson.
I’m by no means a Clinton fan but the idea that Holder should be held accountable for Clinton’s corrupt use of his plenary power to pardon whoever the hell he feels like strikes me as more than a little odd. Even if Holder had opposed the pardon, Clinton could have done it, anyway.
Cohen, Klein, and Drum all think the Justice Department should be independent of the president. Barack Obama said as much in introducing Holder yesterday. But the fact of the matter is that the Attorney General and senior DOJ staff are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president. Their only higher duty is to the Constitution and the law. Holder telling Clinton, who had every legal right to pardon Rich, that he was “Neutral, leaning towards favorable” on the pardon from a legal standpoint doesn’t cross any obvious lines.
If you think– as I do — the Rich pardon was morally suspect, cast your blame at Holder’s former boss.
Corrected intro to more accurately portray Drum’s position.
Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that, James. During the waning days of the Clinton Administration the requests for pardon didn’t go through the Office of Pardon Attorney as is usually the case. They went straight to Eric Holder. The Marc Rich pardon went to President Clinton under Holder’s signature.
To me that looks like either a case of nonfeasance or malfeasance on Holder’s part. Neither is a particularly good recommendation.
I’m guessing — and correct me here if I’m wrong — but the pardons of Weinberger, Abrams, Clarridge, Fiers, George, and McFarlane by Bush the Elder probably didn’t come up through the Office of Pardon Attorney, either. Facts being what they are, if you’re a well-connected political figure you can pull strings. The normal channel is for people who want a pardon for smuggling slot machines down the Mississippi River back in ’66.
Shorter Jeffery W. Baker:
But mooooooommmmm, they did it tooooo!!!!
*gets petulant look on his face*
In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I note that Obama’s cabinet is basically a variant on Clinton’s cabinet. Clinton 2.0 if you will. Change you can believe in!
[Note: This is not to be interpreted as implying McCain would have been better, brought about more change, etc.]
I tend to agree with Schuler, here.
Blame clinton if you like… I’ll not defend him. But it seems to me a question too, of who encouarged the action. That, clearly, was Holder.
Holder enabled it; no evidence he encouraged it.
I do think that’s normally the case for 11th hour pardons. Basically, the OPA is there to handle petitions from ordinary criminals whereas the president and his team usually vet political and personal pardons.
Clinton went pardon crazy.
Actually, I said that I wasn’t really all the disturbed by Holder’s role. It wasn’t exactly a high point of his career, but by itself it doesn’t strike me as something that should prevent him from serving as AG.
And if Obama had picked a bunch of unknowns, you could whine about him putting rookies in charge of the government in a time of financial crisis, war, terrorist threats and so on.
The whine is certainly a constant…
I’m not sure we can be quite so generous.
Mind usually I don’t have much use for Richard Cohen… but check this out.
Clearly, Holder saw an opportunity to make points for himself with democrat financial backers. Clearly, with this appointment, those points paid off.
Well, let’s keep playing that game.
Postulate that following a Mccain victory at the polls, he proceeded to pile on the Bush appointees.
What’s your reaction now?
Yeah, I thought so. Next?
Well, yes, anjin-san. When you run as a reform candidate, people actually expect you to reform. It’s a cruel world.
“Even if Holder had opposed the pardon, Clinton could have done it, anyway.”
“If” Holder had opposed the pardon and, say, resigned on principle, he would now be regarded as a man of true integrity, not the butt-snorkeling shaper and trimmer that he is now.
Btw, wasn’t an AG just recently hounded from office because of his unprincipled willingness to please his political masters? Would Alberto have kept his job if he had “learned his lessons”?
Well, let’s see what happens when he actually takes office. Expecting reform before that takes place is actually pretty silly.
If Obama’s intention as an executive has a strong thrust towards reform, I expect his senior staff will act on it, regardless of their resumes, or they will find themselves looking for new jobs.
If 18 months from now, there is no sign that Obama was ever serious about reform, people will have something to bitch about. Until then they are either bitching because they enjoy it, or because they can’t think of anything interesting to say.
Does his having been involved in Clinton’s Last Day pardons disqualify him? No.
Does it uphold Obama’s marketing as Change We Can Believe In™? Assuming one actually did believe in it, no.
As for this…
…the argument itself is silly. Right now we are watching as the self-proclaimed reformer creates his reform administration out of, well, a bunch of retreads from a former administration whose claim of ethical superiority turned out to be pure satire.
Anyone who had anything to do with Clinton is a yellow-bellied liberal. This Holder character should be “held”–indefinitely in a Gitmo jail cell.
It’s not the pardon itself that raises questions for me. It’s the self-dealing. The President can pardon whomever he wishes for whatever reason. But Holder supposedly used the Rich pardon to promote his own interests. If true, that does directly impinge on his fitness for the office of AG.
I agree completely on the last. I haven’t seen anything on the first.