The troubled mind of Eric Holder

It was a moment of self-consciously righteous rage that spoke volumes about Holder’s psychology. There was racial tribalism (“my people”), the characterization of a disgusting event as something like a breach of etiquette (“inappropriate, certainly”) and a failure to grasp right and wrong in absolute, rather than relative, terms (whether or not the Black Panthers incident rose to the same level as the most egregious injustices of the Civil Rights era has no bearing on whether or not it should have been prosecuted). Each of those traits have been hallmarks of the Holder era.

The attorney general’s obsession with race has been monomaniacal. Within the first month of his tenure, he told DOJ employees at a Black History Month event that, when it comes to race, America is “essentially a nation of cowards.” In an interview with The New York Times late last year, Holder claimed that attacks on him were “a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship, and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

At a speech in Atlanta just a few weeks ago, Holder showed there were no depths of minutiae he was unwilling to plumb when he complained, “We’ve often seen that students of color, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with special needs are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled. This is, quite simply, unacceptable. … These unnecessary and destructive policies must be changed.” Holder conveniently ignored, however, data that show those students were punished more often because they actually got in trouble more often.

This is the controlling thesis — perhaps the only thesis — that occupies Eric Holder’s mind: any public policy he disfavors can’t be motivated by honest disagreements about first principles or empirical realities; it must be the product of prejudices buried deep within the subconsciousness of its proponents.

When Arizona passed its tough new immigration law (which Holder’s Justice Department subsequently sued the state over), the attorney general publicly warned that the law had “the possibility of leading to racial profiling and putting a wedge between law enforcement and a community that would, in fact, be profiled” — yet Holder admitted at a congressional hearing less than a week later that he hadn’t even read the law.

He even used a similar rationale to defend Obamacare, writing an op-ed with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius where he compared attempts to overturn the law through the courts to efforts to defeat Civil Rights legislation decades earlier.

There is a touch of tragedy to Eric Holder. He is seemingly unaware that he lives in the most advanced era of racial relations in American history. That we have arrived here is a justifiable source of pride for the nation — and it ought to be even more so for the nation’s first African-American attorney general, a man who has seen the transition happen within the course of his own lifetime. For Holder, however, there is only suspicion, paranoia and a touch of vindictiveness. It goes beyond disturbing to see an office so big inhabited by a man so small.

Troy Senik, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom (www.cfif.org), where this commentary originally appeared. He is also an editor at Ricochet.com and a contributor for the Manhattan Institute.