by Nicole Flatow
Although Eric Holder was the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt, he is one in a line of attorneys general to be used as “congressional punching bags,” American University’s Alexander Wohl writes in Politico.
Because of the unique role attorneys general play by defending an administration’s policies in court, they are often viewed as a proxy for the administration and bear the brunt of political anger over its policies. Add to that the heavy hand of the gun lobby pushing to punish Holder for the Department of Justice’s controversial “Fast and Furious” operation, and the fact that Holder has continued undeterred with other DOJ initiatives such as examining new restrictive state voter ID laws, and it is no surprise that House members took their vitriol to another level in finding Holder in contempt.
Still, the fact that a congressional attack is unsurprising in the current political climate doesn’t make it any less disappointing, or any less “toxic” to our system of government, Wohl writes.
“[O]ne hopes that legislators who say they have the nation’s best interests at heart would temper their political zeal for some minimal legislative achievement,” he writes. “Their political theater is ultimately just another example of our government’s growing dysfunctionality.”
Read the full piece for more on the history of attacks on other attorneys general, including the father and son who are the subject of Wohl’s forthcoming book: Tom Clark (who was later a Supreme Court Justice) and Ramsey Clark.