Update: (5pm) An article by George Lardner, Jr. on the same topic in the New York Times.
I have to admit that I have been less than impressed with the unfolding Obama cabinet announcements this week. With all the "HopenChange" mantra surrounding his ascension to office, I've been surprised to see a lot of Clinton retreads in his picks. I'm willing to go with that ... I thought, well, maybe these are okay people who just had the misfourtune to be tied up with Clinton and, as Obama supporters often reminded me, association with shady people doesn't necessarily make you shady. Maybe those Clinton people were actually okay. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt up to a point.
The one that bothers me is the Eric Holder appointment. Gosh, even Ronald Reagan picked Holder in 1988 to serve as a superior court judge! What could be wrong here?! But I'm troubled by Holder's actions since then. I'm troubled by his involvement with the Marc Rich pardon of course, which is what most people are talking about. Holder engineered the end-run around the justice department that allowed the eleventh-hour Clinton pardon to go through. Rich, if you remember, was in exile at the time, and that would have posed a problem to the justice department. He was indicted in 1983 for tax evasion ($48 million!), 51 counts of tax fraud, and more troubling, illegal trading with Iran during the hostage crisis. Denise Rich made huge donations to the Clinton library and to the Democratic party, thus fueling talk that Rich's pardon was bought. Tsk, tsk.
Also, on the same day as the Rich pardons, guess who else got the free ride? Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans of, you guessed it, the Weather Underground. They were associates of Bill Ayers, of course, and were serving sentences for bombing U.S. government facilities. With Holder's guidance, these pardons came just weeks after the bombing of the USS Cole.
Also under Holder's tenure was his management of the Elian Gonzales fiasco in 2000. I remember that clearly and the whole thing troubled me at the time.
And yes, it's true that Holder believes in regulating free speech on the internet. Here's Holder on free speech in 1999: "Well, it's very difficult, given the tenor of the recent Supreme Court cases. The court has really struck down every government effort to try to regulate it. We tried with regard to pornography. It is going to be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at."
He's no fan of the second amendment, either.
No, the Holder move that bothers me most is his role as the point-man in charge of the defense of Clinton's pardon of the Puerto Rican FALN terrorists who conducted a violent campaign from 1974 to 1983, primarily in New York and Chicago iin which at least 6 people died and 70 were injured. The FALN terrorists never expressed remorse and in fact threatened the judge's life who presided over their case. Terrorist Carmen Valentine told the judge, " You are lucky that we cannot take you right now." Another terrorist, Dylcia Pagan warned the courtroom, "All of you, I would advise you to watch your backs!" And finally, terrorist Ida Rodrigues told the judge, "You say we have no remorse. You're right...your jails and your long sentences will not frighten us." Why would anyone pardon, or work for the pardon, of these people? Holder testified that his department did not even question these people to find out if they were remorseful or if they would cooperate with the government in any way to locate one of their accomplices who was still on the Ten Most Wanted list. These pardons were granted over the objections of the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons, yet Holder supported this move for clemency.
These pardons were issued in the months after al-Qaeda's 1988 U. E. embassy bombings. Clinton's supposed motivation for the pardons was to assist his wife's senatorial campaign by garnering support (votes) in favorable communities.
The Clinton tenure has a reputation as being soft on terrorism and the FALN pardons is evidence of this. There is no way that these people deserved to be pardoned. These people hurt and killed Americans, they are a known terrorist group, and Clinton and Holder worked to set them free? Was Holder just following orders from Clinton? Did Holder actually believe they deserved clemency? And is this a position Obama agrees with? It is something he surely must have looked at as he considered Holder. I'd like to know Obama's position on the issue of clemency for terrorists, or at least, these terrorists in this case.
So I'm not convinced this is actually a good pick by Mr. Obama. There is no doubt that the confirmation of Holder would go through - the democratic Senate votes are likely there. But this is one pick that Mr. Obama might be obliged to defend. Holder has a lot of baggage.