COMEY ENDORSES HOLDER FOR AG…. Jim Comey, Bush’s former deputy Attorney General, oversaw the investigation of Marc Rich from 1987 to 1993 as a New York City prosecutor. He admits he was “stunned” by Clinton’s 2001 pardon of Rich, a decision Comey obviously still disagrees with.

Given this background, one might expect Comey to be a leading critic of Eric Holder becoming the next Attorney General. As it turns out, the opposite is true.

The prosecutor who hunted Marc Rich for years has asked the Senate to confirm Eric Holder as attorney general, despite his “misjudgment” in approving the fugitive financier’s presidential pardon.

James Comey, a longtime federal prosecutor in New York who rose to become Manhattan U.S. Attorney and deputy attorney general under President Bush, said Holder’s role “should not disqualify him” as the nation’s first African-American to lead the Department of Justice.

“I think Mr. Holder’s [mistake] may actually make him a better steward of the Department of Justice because he has learned a hard lesson about protecting the integrity of that great institution from political fixers,” Comey wrote last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will convene Holder’s confirmation hearings next month.

Comey’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee notes that he hopes “very much” that Holder is confirmed. “I’m not suggesting errors of judgment are qualification for high office, but in this case, where the nominee is a smart, decent, humble man, who knows and loves the Department and has demonstrated his commitment to the rule of law across an entire career, the error should not disqualify him,” Comey wrote. “Eric Holder should be confirmed as Attorney General.”

Republicans decided recently that the Holder nomination would make for some ideal grandstanding, not only attacking Obama, but allowing the GOP to return to its heyday of Clinton-era controversies. To that end, Comey’s endorsement will, at a minimum, help bolster Holder’s defenders.

I should add, for those who’ve forgotten, that Comey’s name should sound familiar. Comey was the acting Attorney General in early 2004, after John Ashcroft was hospitalized, and balked at reauthorizing the NSA warrantless-search program, leading to the now-infamous Card/Gonzales hospital room visit.

In light of Comey’s defense of the rule of law, it stands to reason that Senate Republicans will completely disregard his support for Eric Holder’s nomination.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.