The country’s chief law enforcement officer may be stepping down before the start of President Obama’s second term.
On Thursday, in front of law students at the University of Baltimore, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked about his job prospects for the future and if he would stay on through 2016.
“I don’t know why you assume my service would have to stop at 2016,” Holder joked, appearing on stage with Law School Dean Ron Weich, a former DOJ official who worked under Holder, according to Reuters and CBS News.
“President Jeb Bush, President Marco Rubio, President Hillary Clinton – any one of them might ask me to stay on,” he added, referencing the potential presidential candidates in 2016.
Then Holder got serious, saying that he would need to talk with both the President and his family before making a decision.
“That’s something that I’m in the process now of trying to determine,” Holder told the crowd of students. “I have to think about, can I contribute in a second term?”
“[I have to] really ask myself the question about, do I think there are things that I still want to do? Do I have gas left in the tank? It’s been an interesting and tough four years, so I really just don’t know,” Holder continued.
“Tough four years” – might be an understatement.
For his efforts to stonewall investigators looking into the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, where federal agents lost track of approximately 2,000 firearms purchased by known Mexican drug cartel operatives, Holder became the first sitting attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. Not a distinction that any presidential cabinet member would want to have on his resume.
Of course, many lawmakers believed the contempt citation was totally warranted. After all, weapons connected to the bungled gunrunning operation were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. Instead of fully cooperating with the congressional probe to get to the bottom of what went wrong, Holder refused to turn over subpoenaed DOJ documents connected to the case.
Consequently, the public still doesn’t know the extent of Holder’s involvement in the scandal (that said, the DOJ’s Inspector General absolved him of any wrongdoing).
To many, the question of whether Holder should step down is an easy one to answer:
“Definitely, without a doubt!”
Though, from my vantage point, I don’t think that would be enough. I think he needs openly acknowledge and take responsibility for his role, no matter how limited he believes it was, in Operation Fast and Furious.
Recently, a congressional report (number 2 in a series of 3 reports on F&F) found that there were “widespread management failures within the hierarchy of the Justice Department” while Fast and Furious was underway. Surely, much of the blame for this dereliction of duty falls with Holder, whether he likes it or not.
So, yes, he needs to step down – but not before taking responsibility for F&F and apologizing to the Terry family for all the management failures and mistakes that happened under his watch. It’s the very least he could do.