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Eric Holder: A Safe Choice

It should come as no surprise to anyone who follows these things that President-elect Barack Obama today chose as the new attorney general his campaign co-chair Eric Holder, a former deputy AG in the Clinton Administration and partner at the Washington law firm Covington & Burling. The thing about Holder is that like Obama, he’s hard to pin down; he’s no ideologue. He’s got the public-service and law-and-order credentials of being the former US Attorney for the District of Columbia, and a former deputy Attorney General. Notably, he was the first African American in both those positions.

Then at the law firm, he polished his corporate credentials: Holder represented major companies like the pharmaceutical giant Merck, the National Football League, MBNA and Chiquita against various charges of fraud, discrimination and misconduct. (That ought to protect him against any attacks from the right that he’s too much of a lefty, although it won’t protect him from attacks from the left that he’s not liberal enough.)

Perhaps intentionally, Holder doesn’t seem to have taken on any controversial or high-profile pro bono cases as a private lawyer, perhaps anticipating that could cause him trouble if he returned to the political arena. Other Covington lawyers have represented large groups of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison in habeas corpus proceedings that directly challenged the government.

Of course, as Spencer notes in his post, Holder has attacked the government’s policy on Guantanamo and torture — a Democratic, yet hardly risky, position to take.

Holder also worked hard on Obama’s campaign, and appears likely to be a loyalist. (For more on their relationship and Holder’s personal background, see this profile in The American Lawyer.)

All this adds up to the 57-year-old Holder as a pretty safe choice for Obama. If even-handedness, predictability and loyalty are what president-elect was looking for in his new attorney general, he seems to have found it in Eric Holder.

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