As Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down my question is as follow what do you think about his legacy? Read few comments.
Nancy Baker, Professor Emerita, Department of Government, New Mexico State University
In my view, he will long be remembered for three things, two of them positive:
1. Being the first African-American attorney general. Since racism has long been an issue in the criminal justice system in the U.S., his appointment was a milestone.
2. Advocating an expansive view of civil rights, including a leading role advocating greater protections for voting rights and an extension of civil rights for gay & lesbian couples.
3. Pursuing an aggressive position on national security matters. I am most troubled by his record here. For example, he refused to prosecute the CIA agents and others whose interrogations of anti-terrorism suspects under George W. Bush seemed to fit the international definition of torture. In addition, he used a law from 1917 to threaten journalists who published leaked material critical to the administration. A few other examples also come to mind.
So – for me- his strong record on civil rights is balanced against a mixed record on civil liberties. Depending on what happens in the future, though, I think his legacy might be similar to that of his hero – Robert F. Kennedy – who served as attorney general during his brother’s administration. RFK was heavily criticized at the time, deeply unpopular with conservatives, but now is considered one of the best attorneys general.
John Pitney, Professor of Politics, Claremont McKenna College
Eric Holder was dedicated to President Obama’s agenda. He fought hard for the president’s positions on civil rights, criminal justice, and other issues.
But dedication can also mean divisiveness. He had poor relations with Republicans in Congress, and he was often uncooperative with congressional investigations.
He was not above hinting that his critics were racists. Three years ago, The New York Times reported:
Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
Liberal Democrats will miss him. Conservative Republicans won’t.
Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University
The Republicans have hated Holder because his actions on Benghazi and Hillary and especially his failure to push hard on the Internal Revenue policy of going after Tea Party organizations were much criticized by the GOP. They wanted Holger to resign because he was a more realistic target than Obama.
Holder was very political for sure but he represented the hopes and needs of minorities and others who often feel neglected or even under attack for example in new voter laws passed by states that make it hard for older and poor Americans. As the first African American Atty General he will go down in history. He will be hard to replace for the next 2 years of Obama administration.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas
Holder’s legacy? There are several. Obviously, he is the first African-American AG. This is important, and I think Holder understands how important this is. But I am certain that he would want us to remember the substance of his policies. This includes, but is not limited to, efforts to end federal government adherence to DOMA and his continued fight against voter disenfranchisement (through voter ID laws, but also fighting against the decision of the US Supreme to invalidate portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Shelby County v. Holder. He has also worked to change sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimums, in particular. This is a big deal.
Ultimately, I think he would hope that his legacy is one that promoted justice, to be sure, but one that strove to reduce the injustices that compromise the pursuit of justice.
Richard Benedetto, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, American University
As far as the Holder legacy is concerned, I would say this.
Eric Holder has been President Obama’s most loyal defender and most visible lightning rod – standing out front and taking heat for what normally would have been the president’s decisions and responsibilities. . For example, in 2009, Obama made Holder announce that Khalid Sheiikh Mohammed would be tried in a New York court instead of a military court. The decision was met with heavy public and political protests, resulting in the eventual rescinding of the decision and returning the trial to the military panel. Through it all, Holder was the front man, while the decision was not Holder’s at all, but Obama’s.
My other comment is that he has been a highly partisan attorney general, angering Republicans in Congress by actions such as dragging his feet in handing over documents in congressional investigations into controversies such as Fast and Furious.
Nicholas Easton, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, Columbus State University
Like Obama, Holder has been a target for right wing anger in American politics and I would say his first legacy is that he has handled it pretty well. Though some criticism is clearly justified,like the “fast and furious” program that was arguably a horrid idea from the start and the criticism of the IRS investigation of certain political groups, much of the criticism was aimed at instances where Holder was trying to do his job, like investigating state laws designed to make it harder for some people to vote. So the fact that he seemed able to keep calm and remain professional in the face of attacks both justified and not is probably the core of his legacy. I think the other big part may well involve the way his department interacted with the Supreme Court. In recent years the Obama administration has won a number of victories or partial victories before a Supreme Court that is not very sympathetic to them on issues ranging from gay marriage to the Affordable Care Act. I’m not saying that their track record is great, but considering how conservative the Court is I think most observers would say they did pretty well, and arguing before the Court is the Attorney General office’s responsibility. Finally I would say that his willingness to investigate (again in a way that has appeared fair and professional) civil rights issues from the Trayvon Martin case in Florida to the recent Michael Brown case in Ferguson, MO, especially given that both he and the President are African-Americans and some would question their objectivity, will be remembered and speak well for his legacy.
Steven Greene, Associate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University
I think Holder has an interesting and mixed legacy. A number of accounts refer to him as a very “controversial” AG, but I truly believe that is far more a sign of our political times than anything about Holder himself. I think Holder’s greatest legacy will be for his forceful and forthright efforts on race issues. In many ways, I think Obama felt he could not inject himself into issues involving race, but Holder has fought hard and openly on Civil Rights issues including Voter ID laws, and to lessen racial injustice in America’s criminal justice system.