Arthur Christopher Schaper
Shortly after his second electoral shellacking in four years, President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. The current AG enjoyed one of thee most controversial, if not offensive, law enforcement official in the federal government's recent history. His potential successor, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York State (Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island), Lynch appears more measured, with a record of prosecuting Democrats and Republicans, including the now-resigned Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY). Despite initial attempts to push a successor before the new, Republican majority took office, Obama respected presented and brought forth his nominee this years.
Lynch's answers during the January 28 and 29th Judiciary Committee Meetings included some surprising and disturbing responses, aside from US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asking Lynch about her lunch.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, now under Republican control, vetted the President's nominee with pointed questions, including her stance on marijuana legalization. Her answer was the most straightforward to all the questions posed: "I do not support legalization of marijuana". Regarding Obama's executive amnesty and prosecutorial discretion, Lynch affirmed that delay or disallowing prosecution for certain crimes does not de facto justify those acts. Resources permitting, the Attorney General had every right and necessity to prosecute crimes not deemed an immediate priority. Breitbart then drew from this line of reasoning that President Obama's executive amnesty had neither legal nor moral bearing in regards to prosecutorial discretion.
Through these hearings, Republican compared her potential tenure with Eric Holder's, whether she would aggravate his controversial legacy, marred by the House of Representatives holding AG Holder in contempt. Republicans also brought in True the Vote founder Catherine Englebrecht who felt intimidated and harassed by the IRS under the Holder Administration, who provided specific concerns about the politicization of the nation's Top Cop.
Rhode Island's Junior Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, sympathetic to Lynch's confirmation, shamed the testimony opposing Lynch's nomination, particularly the comments about Holder:
There are plenty of forums where the Attorney General would have an opportunity to defend himself. This is not one. There is no forum here, there is no opportunity here for Attorney General Holder to answer these various charges that have been made. I think that is fundamental unjust. And frankly, I think it is beneath the dignity of this committee, at a time when we have a significant and solemn charge before us, to determine the fitness of a specific individual to be Attorney General of the United States, to launch a series of unanswerable attacks.
Whitehouse advances an argument divorced from reality. Holder had testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009, and faced serious questions about his tenure as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration. When the House of Representatives Oversight Committee demanded discovery on "Fast and Furious", Holder refused to comply, and the House held him in contempt. Did Whitehouse really think that the Attorney General would testify against himself during the process for vetting his replacement?
I have no problems with the attacks. My problem is the choosing of this forum, where the other individual in question has no chance to answer, fails President Washington's test that one "speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust."
Does Senator Whitehouse have any credibility accusing members of the Judiciary Committee and their witnesses with these charges? Senator Whitehouse condemned the Bush Administration for taking the United States into "a descent into torture." Not only was President Bush not present, he had already left office by the time the Senator uttered these heated, controversial remarks.
Earlier this year, Senator Whitehouse attacked the conservative interest group American Commitment on the floor of the US Senate for fabricating "The War on Coal". Whitehouse then slammed the Koch Brothers, as did former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who even claimed that all the Americans suffering from Obamacare were lying. Not a word from Whitehouse about these inflammatory sound bites and talking points for the liberal media.
With respect to the other issues, I think, we will have time to ventilate those in other forums. I am sure that we will have time to address immigration, address voter ID and voter suppression, address surveillance, address all of those things. But once again in this forum, there's no opportunity for another side to be presented.
That statement was patently untrue. Senator Whitehouse was already giving his opinion of the proceedings. Other Democratic lawmakers had offered the US Attorney soft-ball questions on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.
And I regret that this hearing, this solemn occasion has been coopted to that extent and turned into what appears to be a sound-bite factory for Fox News and conspiracy theorists everywhere.
While defending the Attorney General, and criticizing the panel majority for attacking Holder's record, Whitehouse in turn attacks the witnesses directly and shamefully.
Following those indictments, US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a frequent debating competitor of Whitehouse, rebutted his Rhode Island colleague's inartful criticism:
I want at the outset to extend my apology that earlier in the hearing the Senator from Rhode Island characterized the testimony that we have heard, from witnesses on this panel as "conspiracy theories" and "sound bites for Fox News". I don't think that's an accurate characterization. . .I apologize that you are subjected to having your character impugned in that manner by a United States Senator.
Should either senator apologizing for making their case, presenting their ideological views and concerns in a judiciary hearing? Not at all. The politicization of executive confirmation hearings is nothing new. The McLaughlin Group analyzed the collapse of Bush 41's first major nominee, John Tower for Secretary of Defense. Ronald Reagan's Vice President turned successor lost this nod, and entirely along party lines.