The Senate confirmation hearings prove bruising chiefly for Al Gonzales.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Jan. 15 2009 8:08 PM

Holder Steady

The Senate confirmation hearings prove bruising chiefly for Al Gonzales.

(Continued from Page 1)

Wait! Who is that knocking on the courthouse doors? Hello, legal clarity. I think I recognize you from the late '80s.

There's a moment midmorning when Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., asks Holder if he'll do everything he can to defeat Obama on the basketball court. Holder replies that "he's 10 years younger than me. He plays a lot more frequently than I do. Having said that, I've got a New York City game ... but I think I could hang with him." Then he adds that he still doesn't think it would be wise to beat the president. One waits in vain for the increasingly rage-filled Specter to bellow that this is yet more evidence of a lack of prosecutorial independence.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., goes after the Specter claim that Holder is inclined toward presidential lap-doggery, a la Gonzales, by asking Holder a line of questions about how beholden he is to Obama: "Have you ever been President-elect Obama's personal lawyer, like William French Smith had been for years for Ronald Reagan?" (Answer: No.) "Have you ever been a staffer for Barack Obama, like Ed Meese had been for Reagan?" (Answer: No.) "Have you ever served as official counsel to Barack Obama, like Alberto Gonzales had for George Bush?" (Answer: No.) "And has Barack Obama ever dispatched you to the hospital room of a sick government official to get him to authorize an illegal wiretap program?" (Answer: No.) "And I take it you're not a close relation to the new president, like Bobby Kennedy was to Jack Kennedy?" (Answer: "No, we're not related by blood, though people do say we look alike.")

The sticky wicket here was meant to be Holder's scandalous role in the scandalous pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. In fact, going into the hearings, it sounded as though 50 percent of the evenly split committee was deeply concerned about Holder's careless legal advice. Turns out, nobody cares much but Specter, though he cares enough to support the whole "knuckle-biter" meme. It doesn't help that Holder cops to most of it. In his opening statement, he admits, "My decisions were not always perfect. I made mistakes. … [W]ith the benefit of hindsight, I can see my errors clearly, and I can tell you how I learned from them." He says the Rich episode "was and remains the most intense and searing experience I've ever had. I've learned from that experience. I think, as perverse as this sounds, I will be a better attorney general."


Wait. Who's that knocking on the courthouse doors? Hello, the ability to admit to errors. I think I recognize you from the late '90s.

Here's what Alberto Gonzales said when he was asked in November 2006 whether he regrets any decisions he'd made:

Oh, I think that you and I would—I'd have to spend some time thinking about that. Obviously I'm not going to say that I am perfect and that I've been perfect in doing my job. Obviously I've made some recommendations to my client. Some of those recommendations have not been supported in the courts. In hindsight, you sometimes wonder, well, perhaps, perhaps the recommendation should have been something different.

Holder's day is not perfect. He's wobbly on FISA, wobblier on the Patriot Act, and if he were any wobblier on the possibility of personal accountability for criminal wrongdoing in the Bush administration ("We don't want to criminalize policy differences that may exist between the outgoing administration and the Obama administration"), he'd be an egg. But he is capable of answering legal questions with simple declarative sentences, and he has the refreshing ability to admit mistakes. His extraordinary qualifications and the rave reviews of his supporters notwithstanding, after years of near- unchecked lunacy at the Justice Department, that's almost enough.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.