As promised some time ago, I’d start writing about the cabinet Barack Obama hoped to appoint. I’ve looked (briefly) at the possibility of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton breifly already. I’ll try and revisit her, but for today I want to look at (possibly) the next most important post behind the big 3 (State, Defense, Treasury). Attorney General is the legal brain behind a presidential term., heading up the Justice Department. He advises as much as he demands adherence to the law. He should be a strict customer who acts to keep the president acting within the law. That’s if the AG has any spine what-so-ever. None of President Bush’s 3 (yes, he had 3 in two terms. Bill Clinton only ever had one: Janet Reno) had a spine, or even a moral compass, to keep that criminal in check. Illegal wire tapping, Guantanamo Bay, torture, that war, and anything else that has seen the Bush presidency do anything outside of the law can be traced back to show that the AG has had a helping hand, or an obviously lacking on, in these events.
Now that president-elect Obama is preparing to change the face of the United States for the world to see, his rumoured offering (by NBC News and Newsweek) of the job to long-time associate, senior campaign workers, and co-chair of the vice president search team Eric Holder, is two steps in the right direction. Holder has Obama’s trust, and the two agree on a lot of social, ethical, and political issues. That’s a good thing, because we know that Obama, you know, cares about other people. The ethic and moral compass Obama showed us through his campaign is something most people want embodied in the AG. Holder is the right man for that.
On the two most pressing issues for Obama, his first term, the United States, and even the world, Holder speaks humane and proper Democratic words. On Guantanamo Bay, Holder has said:
The utility of Guantanamo has long since passed. It is a place now that has given this nation a black eye around the world. It has an impact on our ability to interact with our allies. It certainly gives fuel to our adversaries, who would say that we are a nation that is not governed by law.
Holder has also publicly stated that Guantanamo must be closed as part of the healing process. True words – for as long as the blot of GITMO is on the US map, there’s no way to fully respect that country again. I’m in support of due process and democratic rights, perhaps modified and defined with this new age of war, terror, and the like. But there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing it. And GITMO is the very wrong way.
Torture is completely unacceptable. There’s no if’s or but’s about it. If one country starts torturing the people of another, then what stops a totally different country torturing you? Nothing, because the precidence has been set to not adhere to international laws and treaties that have been set down for decades. Holder’s views on torture are stronger than his want to shut down GITMO:
The notion that the Department of Justice would in essence sanction the use of torture as part of the President’s plenary power over military operations is as wrong as it is shortsighted. This position flies in the face of the entire history of American law, helping to create a climate in which unnecessarily abusive conduct can somehow be considered legitimate.
Holder’s position on two other issues, I feel, are important. In years gone by (specifically see: past 8 years), the Justice Department has become a joke. It has been politicised beyond anything any department has been before. It was a simple yes-man to anything the president wanted. The Department needs to be reformed – it needs to be shaken up and it needs to change. On this issue, here’s a breath of fresh air:
I think the next president is going to have to deal with…trying to revitalize and remake a Justice Department that has been really sullied in the last four, eight years or so by people who tried to politicize. And I want to make very clear, I am excluding the present Attorney General [Michael Mukasey], who I think is doing a good job, as well the people who served as Deputy Attorneys General, who I also think have done a good job. But other people at the Justice Department have not necessarily done what has always happened under Republican and Democratic administrations, where the Department has essentially been seen as something not political, and really kind of left to its own. That was not the case in this past administration.
Which brings me to another point, before I move on to my fourth area of interest. While he is a trusted Obama man, his history of bipartisanship is extremely apealing. Holder was nominated to a judgeship by President Ronald Reagan. He even served very briefly as AG under George W Bush (yes, the same one who appointed (as I said) spineless AGs)) while John Ashcroft was waiting for Senate confirmation. The American Bar Association Journal said, “In 1999 (after the Ken Starr circus), Holder helped convince Republicans to scrap independent counsel investigations, successfully arguing before Congress that wrongdoing by public officials can, and should, be handled by the Justice Department.”
Ok, th fourth topic: corporate malfeasance. The world economy is going down the drain because the US isn’t sorted out, isn’t properly regulated, and is a 20th century economy in the 21st century. The US needs a strong hand around to keep things in order after all this hoopla is resolved to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Here’s what Holder has to say on this:
Some really intense, vigorous investigation needs to be done to see if any laws were broken. We’re facing the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression and to the extent people have done anything — either by fraud, conspiracy or broken any federal laws — I think that needs to be uncovered, and people need to be held accountable. The United States taxpayers are going to be paying substantial amounts of money for a good many years in order to make this thing better and to prevent this thing from getting worse. And to the extent that people have profited illegally, or done things illegally, they need to be found out and they need to be prosecuted. And I think that should be a priority for the next Attorney General.
Holder’s credentials come from his long history serving the Justice Department as a prosecutor. He has some big notches in his belt too, from his career there. He took on many high profile cases with high-ranking defendants including a judge, a diplomat, an assistant U.S. attorney and a leading organized crime figure. His experience as a prosecutor might come in handy when the Obama team start getting into the nitty-gritty of Bush and Co.’s actions – with possible prosecution against people in and around his cabinet a good chance at the moment. Obviously, his experience comes with the benefit/burden (depending how you look at it) of having worked for Bill Clinton during his two terms. Another Clinton/Democrat ‘old hand’? Perhaps. I think not – you need to appoint someone to this position with serious experience, and the last round of ‘fresh faces’ came up because Clinton brought in new people during his second term.
I hope that Holder gets through Senate confirmation (and let’s face it, with the Democrats increasing their majority by another seat after convicted felon Ted Stevens conceeded his Alaska seat race to his Democratic rival Mark Begich to 58 seats (with the remaining two to be decided – cloture is still an option!), confirmation isn’t a problem), and we see an AG who is working to keep law and order as part of the presidency not trying to find holes and loopholes to wiggle legislation through.