When Vice President Joe Biden promised "no politics, no ideology...only a clear assessment of facts and law" in predicting how Eric Holder would perform his duties as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the Obama administration, I placed the credibility of his prognostication somewhere between Herbert Hoover's "Prosperity is just around the corner" and Neville Chamberlain's "Peace in our time."
Now, with the better part of two years in office under Attorney General Holder's belt, it would seem my reservations were well founded.
Well founded or not, they shouldn't have been called for in the first place. Because regardless of which end of the political spectrum you align yourself, you could probably find someone you respect who acted as an advocate of Eric Holder at one time or another. Ronald Reagan apparently thought a lot of him; Bill Clinton had his back for a time, too. Nor was Holder's work record without distinction—he had a reputation for tenacity in going after corrupt politicians—and was an outspoken advocate of judicial accountability.
"You have to be held accountable," Holder told Ebony magazine in 1994. "You have to be responsible for your acts. You can't make excuses for the things that you do. And you have to expect that if you do negative things, there are going to be negative consequences for it."
But whatever philosophy a person pays lip service to, whatever ink blots dot his résumé, the battles a man chooses are better barometers of his priorities, and more reflective of his ultimate agenda.
Such are the reasons why Eric Holder scares the hell out of me.
Having made a career out of uprooting corrupt government officials, Holder is not unlike the cop who's works vice too long and is starting to look askance at his mother.
Indeed, our A.G. is seemingly convinced that cops are, if not inherently racist, then at least subject to serious lapses in judgment when it comes to race. Also, Holder has made it known that he regards us as a "nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing race. If we are, it is probably because of a tendency to get bitch-slapped when we do.
And it would appear that there were a few missing parentheticals in Holder's working philosophy. That not only should (some) corrupt officials be prosecuted, but only (some) men and women should be held accountable, in general.
For despite his articulated expectations of accountability, Holder historically favored rehabilitative efforts over punitive sentencing in his career as a judge. And his advocacy of a pardon for Marc Rich proved so alienating that for a time Holder thought his career was over. "I'm done. Public life's over for me. I had a moment in time. That moment has passed," he said in an interview long before the Obama administration came to pass.
Most recently, Holder's amnesty mentality has apparently been extended to the New Black Panther Party, whose blatant racial intimidation at Philadelphia polling sites continues to go unpunished.
With all this philosophical couching taking place at an operational level, the question is begged: Just who is it that Eric Holder is determined to see be held accountable?
Well, the answer is you, the patrol officer.
OK, maybe not all of you. At least, not just yet. But definitely if you're working in Arizona. And in any event, the writing is on the wall.
No sooner did Arizona pass a state law in a bid to deal with its legitimate concerns over illegal immigration than Holder began entertaining lawsuits against the state and threatening to go after cops for racial profiling—all this before a single arrest or detention incident to the law taking effect.
Now, the whole issue over immigration is a weighty one with no clear-cut resolution. Many who decry any prospect of the amnesty seem to have a selective stigmatism, unwilling to hold themselves or the whole of society accountable for decades of having turned a blind eye to the problem. Then there is the hubris of those on the other side of the debate who feel that by virtue of proximity to our border that they are somehow above overcoming the obstacles that people of other nationalities have to endure while staking a claim to the American Dream.
But in any event, the government of Arizona has indulged its rights in passing a law that would ideally be deemed redundant if anyone really had their shit together when it came to laws already on the books. Given that, the men and women entrusted with enforcing such laws should be able to conduct their mission without fear of political, social, or financial reprisals.
This current political climate finds me reflecting on an episode at my old station: A number of local businesses were upset with the number of day laborers who were endangering themselves and motorists, using alleys as latrines, and generally being nuisances. A special unit deputy was tasked with the mission of dealing with the day laborers. The deputy took his mission seriously and proved successful at it-so successful, in fact, that his actions put him on the radar of a Hispanic political supervisor who then wanted his Anglo head for racial profiling.
Shamefully—but not surprisingly—the same administrators who had tasked the deputy with the mission in the first place not only canceled the mission but punitively removed him from his assignment.
I can only hope that Arizona's civic authorities and law enforcement administrators exhibit more backbone when it comes to the prospect of defending their own.
For they will not only be defending their officers against the usual community activists, but an opponent much more formidable, a man who can bring the full weight of the Justice Department down upon our badged brothers and sisters for enforcing the state laws they have been sworn to uphold.
It is a sad day when the same man who hesitates to prosecute voter intimidation that was captured on video is more than willing to fire a preemptive strike on behalf of a perceived civil rights concern.
Before making any further missteps regarding Arizona's new law, Attorney General Eric Holder would be well advised to consider these words of wisdom:
You have to be held accountable. You have to be responsible for your acts. You can't make excuses for the things that you do. And you have to expect that if you do negative things, there are going to be negative consequences for it.
To forego prosecuting militants who have blatantly violated the law while simultaneously threatening those tasked with enforcing the law is not only hypocritical, but shameful.
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