Calls for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder by Congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association bring back memories of numerous resignations before President Barack Obama’s time and the failure of Congress to renew the assault weapons ban in 1994. Both Republicans and the NRA have taken the opportunity to publicly call for Holder’s head because Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by a weapon traced backed to “Fast and Furious,” an operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – and, consequently, a division of the Justice Department.
Let’s not forget that George W. Bush’s administration had three Attorney Generals. John Ashcroft resigned. Alberto Gonzales also resigned. And Michael Mukasey who just left once it was all over.
Ashcroft, of Patriot Act fame, takes a special place in the annals of American History as the attorney general who amazingly created the opportunity to circumvent the constitution by giving permission for questionable detainment, wiretapping and eavesdropping, just to name a few. He even tried to enlist the help of postal carriers and service workers to call in what they might think are suspect situations. For all this effort, however, Ashcroft had surprisingly few successful prosecutions against terrorists, and the Justice Department was caught several times playing “shell games” with the numbers. For example, crimes such as writing bad checks or protesters trespassing on a Navy base were listed as “terror convictions,” despite having no cited connection to any acts of terrorism. Now a Washington Lobbyist, Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans resigned the same day near the beginning of Bush’s second administration.
The resignation of Bush’s second Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, was received amid charges that he was loyal to the President and not the law. Following on the heels of Ashcroft, the first Hispanic Attorney General, Gonzales, had also been White House Counsel. He took the bold step of dismissing nine United States Attorneys, attracting criticism that his reasons were partisan. Many charged Gonzales with making questionable statements before Congress among many other things.
The Gonzales resignation was only one of many during the Bush administration. In addition to Ashcroft, White House advisor, Karl Rove, also in the sights of congressional investigators for his alleged role in politicizing ordinary governmental functions, resigned. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, White House counsel Harriet E. Miers, presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, deputy national security advisers J.D. Crouch and Meghan O’Sullivan, and budget director Rob Portman. All resigned.
Resignations appear to have been the Bush way of quelling public criticism and scrutiny. Though the Obama Administration has had resignations, the most highlighted one was that of Rahm Emanuel’s departure – to run for Mayor of Chicago.
Holder, now under fire, has not been shy about taking unpopular steps. He requested that internet providers, for example, put wiretapping capability in place similar to cell phone companies. And he has proposed expanding the time interrogators can question terrorism suspects before they must read Miranda warnings or present them to a judge for an initial hearing.
Following the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, and risking the disapproval of the Administration, Holder released a secret report exposing C.I. A. investigative practices and consequently appointed a special investigator. He also made a decision to try certain terrorists in U. S. Federal Court rather than military tribunal – to the dismay of New York officials (though the trials were never actually held).
The NRA is circulating a petition for the firing of Attorney General Eric Holder with no consideration for their own strong lobby to keep assault weapons on the streets of America
Democrats haven’t forgotten what happened in 1994. That year, President Bill Clinton was pushing for passage of a landmark crime bill featuring a ban on assault-style weapons, and then-House Speaker Thomas Foley (D-WA) twisted Democrats’ arms to get it through the House. Come November, Democrats suffered widespread election losses and lost control of the House and Senate. Foley was among those defeated, and Clinton and others credited the NRA’s campaigning with a big role in the outcome. And when the assault weapons ban came up for congressional reauthorization in 2004, it failed.
Holder has a history of dedication to the rule of law with little regard for partisan politics. His ability to continue the work of chief lawyer for the United States in the face of intense political posturing shows that it is not likely the nation’s first African American Attorney General is going anywhere any time soon.