The Holder delay

THE HOLDER DELAY…. I can appreciate principled opposition as much as the next political observer. If Senate Republicans seriously believe Attorney General-designate Eric Holder is unqualified for the office, they should vote against his nomination. If they seriously believe he’d threaten the rule of law, they should filibuster his nomination.

But at this point, we’re not dealing with principled opposition. Senate Republicans forced a one-week delay on a confirmation vote, even though his “ultimate confirmation still appears all but assured.”

Holder will be confirmed with bipartisan support, which necessarily makes Republican delay tactics little more than a press stunt, intended to score some cheap points, while keeping the Justice Department effectively without a leader while the GOP spins its wheels.

At issue is a response Holder offered during his seven hours of hearings: “waterboarding is torture.” That’s both an accurate assessment and a reflection of existing law. But if Holder believes waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal, he might be willing to prosecute officials who acted at the behest of the Bush administration, which leads some Republicans to block the confirmation process from proceeding. We certainly can’t have an A.G. who’s too committed to prosecuting those who break the law.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) believes it’s a mistake to expect Holder to unilaterally rule out all prosecutions related to torturous interrogations: “Making a commitment that you’ll never prosecute somebody is probably not the right way to proceed either … I don’t expect him to rule it in or rule it out.”

And yet, Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) does expect him to rule it out. Indeed, he’s not the only one — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said it would “really bother” him if Holder refused to rule out torture prosecutions.

“Holder put himself in a position of legal and rhetorical checkmate when he unequivocally described waterboarding as torture yet refused to tell the committee whether he would prosecute members of the intelligence community,” [a] GOP aide said. “Holder can’t have it both ways.”

That, of course, is nonsense. Holder said waterboarding is torture, which is true. He also said he can’t unilaterally rule out prosecutions on hypothetical cases he hasn’t seen, which is just common sense.

This farce is painfully ridiculous.