Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

Eric Holder’s left many baleful legacies: being censured by the House of Representatives; withholding subpoenaed documents, proving untruthful about a failed gun-walking caper in Mexico; failing to enforce laws on the books, from immigration to the elements of the Affordable Care Act; illegally billing the government for his own private use of a government Gulfstream jet; snooping on Associated Press reporters; giving de facto exemptions to renegade IRS politicos; and trying to create civilian trials for terrorist killers like KSM, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks. But he will be known mostly for re-teaching Americans to think of race as essential, not incidental, to our characters.

He accomplished that unfortunate legacy in a number of ways. Holder waded into the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown fatal shootings before all the facts were known in a manner no local public prosecutor would dare do so. He claimed that the unpopularity of Barack Obama was due to racial animosity, apparently forgetful that not long ago, in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, novels and movies were published and produced fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush, who was compared to Nazis and fascists, by everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn. I assume Holder was then quiet about such alarming disparagement of his president; and also I assume that when Obama in 2009 had near 70% approval ratings, for Holder the nation was anything but cowardly.

Of course, Holder infamously called Americans “cowards” for not being as obsessed in the same way with race as he was. He referred to African-Americans as “my people,” a sloppy aside that might have gotten any other attorney general fired for such cheap ethnic chauvinism — except that his own boss had once called for Latinos to punish “our enemies” and on the campaign trail had talked of “typical white person.” Holder chose to drop the New Black Panther case in a way that highlighted racial matters — apparently coming armed with clubs to a voting precinct is hardly unusual — in the same way that he suggested that those states that might require an ID to vote (in the manner we produce IDs to write a check or use a credit card) were racist, in the same way that he suggested that states like Arizona that wanted federal immigration law enforced were acting out of racialist motives.

In other words, in the reprehensible vision of Eric Holder, how we look governs who we are. He either believes in the desirability of such racialist exceptionalism out of cultural and historic ignorance — given the contemporary evidence of where bumper-sticker racial, ethnic and religious jingoism inevitably leads (cf. e.g., Iraq, Rwanda, the Congo, Serbia, Bosnia, etc.) — or he cynically assumes that the more the country is polarized racially, the more elites like himself are called on to adjudicate differences, and thus advance to positions that they might otherwise not have earned either by their prior record or their present display of minimal competence.

I do not say that lightly. Holder, remember, prior to his ascension as attorney general, was largely known for two things, both bad: one, he navigated Bill Clinton’s disgraceful 11th hour pardon of the late felon Mark Rich (Rich was in theory facing a possible 300 years in prison for dozens of felonies [including trading with arch-enemy Iran, then holding U.S. hostages] when he bolted, escaped arrest and fled to Switzerland). Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder sidestepped a number of normal Justice Department procedures and failed to disclose that Rich’s wife (later divorced) had already given or would be likely to give $1 million to the Democratic Party, $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and nearly a half-million dollars to the Clinton presidential library. So much for social justice and the deplorable privilege of the elite.

Holder was also known for his much-reported-on activism with the tony law firm Covington & Burling, which was suing the Bush administration on behalf of several terrorists being detained at Guantanamo. That was an especially unfortunate moral failing, given that Holder was already under a cloud for another Clinton-era ethical and moral lapse for engineering the blanket commutation of prison sentences of 16 violent FALN terrorists (murders, bombings, and terrorist acts) — against the advice of the FBI and the federal attorneys who prosecuted such criminals. The Puerto Rican community, it was apparently thought, would be especially thankful to the Clintons and might display such gratitude in the forthcoming Hillary Clinton New York Senate election. Holder, in other words, was a consigliore, a fixer of the sort that Robert Duvall played in the Godfather movies.

But Holder’s sin is not that he was just an ideologue, but rather than he is also an abject opportunist — the voice of social justice massaging a pardon for the Wall Street criminal who had endowed his boss so lavishly, the advocate preening about an unpopular Bush’s supposedly unjust Guantanamo who once had no problems with a popular Bush opening of the facility, or the man of the common people Gulfstreaming to a horse race on the public dime. So, too, Holder was always an entrepreneur about anti-terrorism: whatever the prevailing general consensus, then Holder was for it without regard for principle. In 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, when George W. Bush was enjoying record popularity levels, Holder did not care a whit about the idea of holding terrorist suspects in Guantanamo without affording them prisoner of war status. In a 2002 interview with CNN’s Paula Zahn, he intoned of the Gitmo detainees:

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohammed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not….Yes, and I think in a lot of ways that makes sense. I think they clearly do not fit within the prescriptions of the Geneva Convention. You have to remember that after World War II, as these protocols were being developed, there seemed to be widespread agreement that members of the French Resistance would not be considered prisoners of war if they had been captured. That being the case, it’s hard for me to see how members of al Qaeda could be considered prisoners of war.

Before Holder, Al Sharpton was roundly derided as a particularly venomous race hustler whose cheap activism had led to riot and mayhem, a tax-cheat and -delinquent, and a vicious slanderer forever branded by the Tawana Brawley caper. It was Holder who judged Sharpton not on his character, but on his race and what his racial fire and brimstone might do politically for Holder’s boss, and therefore on occasion brought him into the White House as a key advisor on racial tensions that Sharpton himself had helped stir up.

Before Holder, Americans were coming to the point that they did not automatically prejudge interracial violence as a direct consequence of racial bigotry. But thanks to Holder, not so much now. Trayvon Martin could not just be a troubled teen who had an unfortunate rendezvous with an edgy Hispanic George Zimmermann that led to the armed latter having his head pounded, and then shooting to death his unarmed assailant. Instead, it was a ripe occasion to condemn the police and the establishment as intractably racist and in need of the sort of racial bromides Holder was so eager to prescribe.

Michael Brown could not just be a strong-arm robber, who manhandled a clerk, stormed out with stolen goods high on marijuana, walked down the middle of a road, and then found himself in a violent and fatal encounter with a policeman, in which the unarmed suspect was killed and the armed policeman apparently battered — and the facts of the confused case still to be adjudicated.  Instead, the Brown case, too, was a fertile occasion to exploit, proof that early-1960s-era Bull Connors still are with us — and proof we need elites like Eric Holder to shield us from them. Ferguson, after all, was cited by the president in an oration to the United Nations that Americans can hardly blame others for bigotry and violence.

Eric Holder did his best to polarize America and confuse it about race. Interracial violence was to Holder de facto proof of racism — but only sort of. There have been all sorts of depressing murders and disappearances in just the last month — each with the potential to reach the Martin-Brown level of national obsession.

Sometimes a reserve officer used his weapon to shoot the suspect who did not have a firearm; sometimes the killer for some strange reason had been treated far too leniently and was let out on early parole to kill an innocent woman; sometimes the killer had a prior record of murdering and was never apprehended; and sometimes the murder suspect had a prior record of criminal activity that for some strange reason was never or only inadequately prosecuted. In all these cases, there was no editorializing by Holder about  the police or the nature of the crime or the failure of the system to deal with such barbaric and violent men before they again committed violent acts.

So this month Holder stayed mum when a young African-American Jesse Matthew Jr., with a past but apparently little scrutinized criminal record, was a prime suspect on the lam in the brutal killing of a University of Virginia white co-ed. So he was not interested in why a young African-American radical jihadist, Ali Brown, with a habit for prior killing, fatally shot an innocent white student in his Jeep on the way home. So he had no interest in why another African-American would-be jihadist and disaffected worker, Alton Nolen, let out early from parole, beheaded a white woman at work and tried to kill another victim.

Note how we cringe when I use freely now the distasteful buzzwords “white” and “African-American.” I emphasize the race of the victim and the assailant not because I believe that race was necessarily a prime motivation in any of these cases, much less that Holder should have commented on such lurid interracial crimes before they came to trial that made headlines, or that Americans should think race was necessarily vital in fathoming such barbarism, but because Eric Holder has set an example in this country to racially contextualize any interracial murder that might be massaged for his own political advantage, and to find some government or police agency, or society at large, as culpable for the violence. Race largely determines which interracial violent act the attorney general of the United States chooses to elevate to national political importance and to use for his larger political agendas.

The hypocrisy and demagogic manner in which Holder has done so may well teach other Americans to follow his reprehensible lead — and that will be unfortunate given that rare interracial violent crime is currently a mostly politically incorrect and taboo topic. Reasonable and educated people are not supposed to notice the disparate statistical rate in which blacks attack whites — at least until Eric Holder taught the country otherwise that race matters most in their lives and that they remain cowards should they not agree with him.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

22 Thoughts on “The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

  1. Joan Sands on September 29, 2014 at 8:44 am said:

    Well said!!!

  2. What’s scarier than all this is that the replacement might be worse, especially if the president feels like Holder didn’t do his job up to his expectations.

  3. Stanley Haar on September 29, 2014 at 9:31 am said:

    Another example of Holder as “consigliore”: at the Marc Rich pardon hearings Holder’s attorney was Reid Weingarten, who now represents Edith O’Brien, the key witness in the MF Global/Jon Corzine scandal. By silencing O’Brien, the biggest Obama campaign bundler on Wall Street has escaped prosecution.

  4. Ted Potter on September 29, 2014 at 9:34 am said:

    Sadly this plain and simple truth will be lost on those who most need to heed its wisdom.

  5. I believe natural law still trumps environmental hypnosis of our culture when it comes to personal safety. Blacks are considered more likely to commit violent crime towards any race while asians are considered least likely to commit violent crime in America. Why is this? Of course poverty can be brutal and any individual can be broken down and desensitized but there has to be a reason why Africa is so rich in natural resources yet its people so wanting. Asia on the other hand is certainly no garden party but it has made progress in lifting its residents out of the dirt and providing some opportunities for hope. I would liken the current state in Africa to the current state of being black in America. Mugabe is considered a leader in black Africa and Sharpton in black America. Simply put as long as blacks are okay with leaders like them then they will always be a target for manipulation and abuse by ruthless entities. Holder is not black as much as he is a political animal just using race to forward his bosses agendas.

  6. N. Robinson on September 29, 2014 at 9:57 am said:

    These don’t even seem to include his time as Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General, once a scumbag always so, second chances and all.

  7. Not only the usual suspects, (Alexander, Collins, Graham, Hatch, and McCain) but a total of 21 RINOs voted to confirm and the ethically challenged Mel Martinez’s refused to vote. Most of these Republican Senators are still in office giving credence to the “life tenure” status of what was originally meant to be a citizen legislature. Such are the perils of Aristocracy. It also speaks to the low level of information making it’s way into the voting booths.

    The real tragedy for the Country is that the Obama/Holder regime has made it highly unlikely that any of the many highly educated, highly articulate Black conservatives will have a chance to be elected to National office.

  8. So, what’s the problem? 😉

    Just like in Chicago politics, can’t touch someone unless they want you to.
    And one of them will be running for Pres. soon.
    Unless, of course, there is so much chaos that O remains in office.
    Boehner and his ilk will be just fine with O remaining in office.

    • I forgot about that mess.

      We’ll see more of that type of stuff when Clinton II reigns.
      Will she want to be named King or Queen?

  9. Was the fatal stabbing in the back of a 9 yr white child by a 12 yr black child ever reported in major TV media? According to the 12 year old he didn’t even know the 9 year old and had no reason for stabbing him except that he wanted to die. The children were playing on a playground.

    This stabbing happened during the rioting in the now famous town of Ferguson.

    I read the initial report about this stabbing. In current news reports I see missing parts of vital information that the 12 year old and family initially gave to the authorities.
    Also, the child who took the knife he used from home with the sole purpose of stabbing ANYONE (so he said) doesn’t seem to be a part of the news. The child is now pleading “not guilty”.

    What would the black community do about this if the tables were turned? Would the white child be deemed racist? Would they call for the death penalty?

    Read more than one entry of this story to hopefully get the whole story.

    Do you think parents will let their children go to a playground, or will they even take their to one when unknown kids are playing there?

  10. Maybe we should just be grateful that this “Fixer” is leaving the stage!!


    The information I initially read must have be removed because of the child’s future trial.
    I’m not familiar with how the news works because I mostly don’t read or view the news because of stuff like this.

    Keep taking God out of humanity and you won’t have any.

    • Carol I like the way you think. You didn’t understand where I was coming from on my GOLDWATER comment but I must admit you’ve hooked me. I have not heard about the young boy being stabbed in Ferguson but it’s obvious that most news outlets are not going to report black on white crime because it doesn’t forward their progressive agenda of social justice. White people are the problem and unless they get with the program they will remain a target.

  12. Daniel Roll on September 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm said:

    If the Senate maintains a Democratic majority, look for Mr. Holder to be the next nominee to the Supreme Court.

  13. I agree with Mr. Hanson’s observations and am horrified by Holder’s behavior, rancour and outright racism. I believe his campaign to extort every last nickel possible from the Banks involved in the meltdown of the Great Recession while in effect ignoring the malfeasance of the Executives directly responsible for setting policy – and who were the REAL culprits – was also a disgrace. How totally unfortunate the Holder’s, Jackson’s, Sharpton’s and their ilk are allowed to set examples for the many, many educated, competent and morally decent African Americans who should be acting in those roles.

  14. Holder is crook who belongs in jail for a very long time. This man has nothing for contempt for the rule of law and violated it as needed to further Obama’s political agenda.

  15. Mr Hanson have there been any “law & order” speeches given by either Eric Holder or Obama? Have they ever expressed a strong positive opinion of the responsibility of all Americans to respect the law of the land?

  16. David Park on October 1, 2014 at 9:13 am said:

    Eric Holder and Barak Obama are the show dogs of the new racism. If they had been white officials in the 1950’s south, they would have said and done exactly the same things they do and say now. Using the history of a past one never lived for a living failure in the present is the recipe for a future filled with anguish, turmoil, and a continuing feeling of inadequacy.

  17. Brutha V on October 1, 2014 at 7:49 pm said:

    Excellent article by Dr. Hanson. Anyone with knowledge of Eric Holder’s past would understand why he has zealously pursued his subjective interpretation of justice (as well as injustice) — he’s a black man first, and an American second (or third, behind Marxist). Read the following article by J. Christian Adams to understand the depth, and breadth, of Holder’s Afrocentric philosophy:

  18. It’s not over yet folks ! Some have already speculated Holder will be now nominated for the Supreme Court in 0’s last 2 years , given the “spinal deficit” in Congress , I could easily see this happening

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