Few would argue that, if the Newsweek report is true, Eric Holder is unqualified for the post of attorney general in the Obama administration. After all, Holder is a former Reagan-appointed judge, federal prosecutor, deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, and he even served as acting attorney general for a couple of weeks before John Ashcroft was confirmed by the Senate during the early days of the Bush administration.
However, Holder’s appointment would likely add to the concerns of critics who worry that Obama is relying too heavily on former Clintonites in his administration. Indeed, in addition to speculation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may be tapped for secretary of state, Obama’s most high-profile choices so far, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Chief Counsel Greg Craig and Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain, all worked in the Clinton White House, as did a host of Obama’s economic advisers.
As the Newsweek article notes, Holder carries with him some Clinton-era baggage — Holder was criticized for his role in Clinton’s pardoning of fugitive Marc Rich.
The Washington Post (via Lexis Nexis) in 1997 reported that Holder was criticized by fellow attorneys for his support of federal mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug offenses, which Obama has said he opposes.
To Spencer’s question of whether Holder should be expected to pursue investigations into the abuses of President Bush’s Justice Department, a recent profile of Holder that appeared in The American Lawyer in June may provide some clues. In the article, Holder is quoted as saying “loyalty is something I value an awful lot,” and he and Obama “share a worldview.”
It seems likely that Holder will focus on carrying out Obama’s priorities. If The Associated Press’ report is correct that Obama does not intend to press charges against American officials related to the torture of detainees, progressives probably shouldn’t be looking for Holder to do a whole lot of freelancing on the issue.