Appointing unqualified people? Who'd have expected such a thing?(Yes, I know, put your hand down; that's sarcasm, people)
Both in Congress and among a number of current and former Justice Department employees is a growing concern that the Obama administration is politicizing the department in ways the Bush team never imagined. A former Justice employee cautions that every administration has the right and the obligation to set policy. "Elections have consequences," he affirms. But he thinks that the Obama administration has gone beyond policy reversals and is interfering with prosecutorial decisions, staffing the department with unqualified personnel, and invoking privilege to thwart proper congressional oversight and public scrutiny.
While some conservatives doubted that the man who helped facilitate the Marc Rich pardon and overrode the recommendation of career attorneys to give Bill Clinton a favorable recommendation on the pardon of 16 Puerto Rican terrorists in 1999 could live up to those pretty sentiments, he was confirmed by a vote of 75-21 with the support of many Republican senators.
Holder soon cast aside his confirmation rhetoric in favor of partisan politics. The first battle occurred over the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the elite group within the Justice Department that wrestles with difficult constitutional analysis and acts as the constitutional arbitrator for the entire administration. During his confirmation hearing Holder specifically pledged,
We don't change OLC opinions simply because a new administration takes over. The review that we would conduct would be a substantive one and reflect the best opinions of probably the best lawyers in the department as to where the law would be, what their opinions should be. It will not be a political process, it will be one based solely on our interpretation of the law.
Within weeks, however, Holder violated that pledge when the issue of voting rights for the District of Columbia emerged. It had been a longstanding position of OLC, dating back to the Kennedy administration, that federal voting rights for the District could not constitutionally be granted by statute. This position did not sit well with the new Obama administration, or with Holder personally. After all, Holder has been a prominent figure in D.C. politics and was introduced at his confirmation hearing by a longtime friend and ally Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting representative and a key proponent of D.C. voting rights.
Presented with OLC's settled position, Holder opted to shop around for another opinion. He went to the solicitor general, asking a lower threshold question, namely whether the solicitor general could "defend" the Obama administration if it signed a statute granting D.C. voting rights. Clint Bolick, a veteran of the Reagan Justice Department, observes, "I don't recall [another instance] when the Department of Justice went back to get a second answer, when you have a 'do over,' when the best lawyers come up with the 'wrong answer' from a policy perspective."
Another former Justice Department attorney finds the opinion shopping "extremely out of the ordinary." "[OLC] is the last word on constitutional issues," he explains. "Holder asked the wrong question to the wrong office and got an obvious, easy answer to satisfy his political agenda."
To Representative Frank Wolf, a moderate Republican from Northern Virginia, the "most egregious" action by Holder and the Obama administration concerns the disposition of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and Justice's interference with the flow of information from the FBI. His annoyance obvious, Wolf explains that he sent multiple letters to Holder asking a list of questions concerning the potential release of detainees, and in particular about the Uighurs, who news reports suggested at one point were about to be released in Northern Virginia. He was rebuffed: "I'm the ranking member, and I can't get them to answer a question." Wolf says that the Justice Department even went so far as to forbid FBI briefings with his office unless a Justice Department representative was present, which he terms "outrageous." He received one briefing from the FBI, but "then the political guy came in and chilled the entire meeting."
Commissars sitting in to control meetings? Who would have beli- oh, never mind.
There's a whole section on the decision to drop prosecution of the Black Panthers for voter intimidation, including this:
One cannot read through the correspondence without concluding that Holder's Justice Department is grasping at straws to defend a decision made for a purpose it wants to conceal. Positions never before used by the civil rights division have been tossed about, in contradiction of previous case law and department policy. While the Justice Department has cited the First Amendment rights of the Panthers, it had never before accepted such a defense in a case of voter intimidation. (Steve Rosenbaum himself once filed a voter intimidation claim against Jesse Helms and the North Carolina state Republican party for merely sending a postcard memo, normally quintessential protected political speech, which the department found misleading.) And while the Justice Department seems bent on coming up with excuses for the New Black Panther party, the department took an entirely different approach in Pima County, Arizona, where the presence of Minutemen legally carrying firearms on Election Day set off more than a half dozen visits by the Justice Department and multiple inquiries.
Observers remain baffled as to the reason for the dismissal. Some wonder if a Philadelphia politician weighed in. Others speculate that the Obama administration fears offending allies in the African-American community or simply recoiled against the notion that civil rights laws originally designed to prosecute white segregationists might be applied to a militant African-American organization.
Because you're only supposed to use it to prosecute white racists, I guess. And voter intimidation by politicially-correct thugs is ok to these bigots.
But, as one former Justice official notes, although charges of "political meddling" were constantly raised in the Bush administration, "to date the inspector general has never found a single case dropped or instituted due to political interference. Already [during the Obama administration] we have a case--the New Black Panther case--in which actual politicization occurred."
Hope! Change!! Transparency!!! And bigots and fools in charge of the Justice Department.