In a time when his job is of seminal importance, Eric Holder glides lazily from one liberal shibboleth to another, unwilling to condemn the Islamist quest for a global caliphate but perfectly happy to pour scorn on the government of Arizona.
Attorney General Eric Holder has a morally serious job. He must; he heads the only cabinet department named after one of the four cardinal virtues. But in his execution of that office, Holder consistently shows a deficiency in the three other ingredients of classical moral probity: prudence, temperance and courage.
Prudence is serviceably defined as the marriage of right means with right ends; that is, not only knowing the right thing to do, but also understanding the right way to do it. For instance, sensible Americans of every stripe agree that bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to justice is a noble goal. But they part ways over the best means to accomplish this.
Last fall, Holder decided that the appropriate venue for Mohammed’s trial would be a civilian courtroom in Manhattan rather than a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. In so doing, he ignored the cautionary lessons of the law and order approach to terrorism that predominated in the 1990s: that key intelligence could be compromised and that the defendant would be given an unrivaled platform to disseminate jihadist ideology.
He also ignored that Mohammed was already prepared to plead guilty before a military tribunal, precluding the need for a prolonged civilian ordeal. And by pledging to members of the Senate that a failure to convict Mohammed was "not an option," he made a mockery of the American justice system’s presumption of innocence. As an exercise in prudence, it was a failure.
Temperance is the impulse to moderation and self-control. Though it is not much to be expected in modern Washington – a city of intellectual incontinence – it is the fountainhead of humility. If any display could perfectly illustrate the absence of this virtue, it would be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, in official testimony before the United States House of Representatives, admitting that he hadn’t read the Arizona immigration law that he had represented as a possible threat to civil rights only days earlier. Score another moral loss for Holder.
Courage is a term that probably doesn’t need much definition, except in our nation’s capital, where it's widely held to be the act of stating the obvious whilst wagging one’s finger. Holder, unfortunately, is unable to pass even this low threshold.
On the same day that the Attorney General paraded his ignorance of the Arizona immigration law, he had the following exchange with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on the issue of Islamic terrorism in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting, the attempted Christmas bombing and the recent attempt to attack Times Square in New York:
Rep. Smith: Are you uncomfortable attributing any of their [terrorists] actions to radical Islam? It sounds like it.
AG Holder: No, no I don’t want to say anything negative about a religion… that’s not consistent with the teachings of it.
Rep. Smith: “Could Radical Islam have motivated these individuals to take the steps that they did?”
AG Holder: “I certainly think that it’s possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like Mr. Shahzad.”
Rep. Smith: Ok, could it have been the case in one of these three [terrorism] instances… could one of these three individuals have been incited by radical Islam…”
AG Holder: Well, I think potentially incited by an Islam that is inconsistent with the teachings [of Islam]…
Rep. Smith: It’s hard Mr. AG, it’s hard to get an answer yes or no [from you]…
Warmed by a cocoon of political correctness, Holder was unable to grasp the achingly obvious: whether or not the terrorists’ version of Islam is theologically sound is immaterial to the larger point that it animates their suicidal ideology. It becomes difficult to take the Attorney General seriously as a symbol of national security when he approaches the task like the officious editor of an academic journal.
In a time when his job is of seminal importance, Eric Holder glides lazily from one liberal shibboleth to another, unwilling to condemn the Islamist quest for a global caliphate but perfectly happy to pour scorn on the government of Arizona. In serious times, he is an unserious man.