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February 15, 2010

NYT: Obama Politicizing Justice Department

They don't say that of course -- they describe it in a much nicer way. The administration is merely seeking to improve Holder's "political ear," they tell us.

You tell me how this isn't "politicizing Justice," as the Democrats charged Bush in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

After 9/11 Trial Plan, Holder Hones Political Ear

Last winter, when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called the United States a “nation of cowards” for avoiding frank conversations on race, President Obama mildly rebuked him in public.

Out of view, Mr. Obama’s aides did far more. Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina, the White House chief and deputy chief of staff, proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better “political antennae,” as one administration official put it.

When he heard of the proposal at a White House meeting, Mr. Holder fumed; soon after, he confronted his deputy, David W. Ogden, who knew of the plan but had not alerted his boss, according to several officials. Mr. Holder fought off the proposal, signaling that his job was about the law, not political messaging.

A year later, he is no longer so certain.

...

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

But now Mr. Holder is in the awkward position of pushing for an approach that he acknowledges he would accept defeat on. The administration hopes to announce a new venue for the Sept. 11 trial within three weeks, he said last Tuesday. But Congress could pass legislation requiring that Mr. Mohammed be tried by a military commission, or Mr. Obama himself could change direction.

“You always have to be flexible,” Mr. Holder said, allowing that justice could be served in a commission trial, too, and praising generals who “adapt their game plans” as the situation changes.

The NYT is striving mightily to portray this merely as a matter of political messaging. That is, they are trying to pretend that only Holder's words will change, not his policy.

But right there -- even as they try to sell you on this -- they acknowledge that Holder has changed his policy on KSM's trial.

That's pretty obvious. So obvious that even the NYT seems to notice. But instead of noting that and asking Holder about it, they just whine that he's in a "tough spot" where he supposedly has to explain his policy better and more "forcefully" even when he's already announced the likelihood that policy will change.

Um, NYT? That's not about "messaging." That's about Justice Department policy being changed by Rahm Emanuel and the political team for the sake of politics and polls.

Of course I approve of this change in policy -- but even the NYT should be able to figure out that this change has occurred not due to principled belief, but due to poll numbers. And they should be able to figure out that a major change in policy is going on here, not a mere change in the "mere words" used to justify it.

Thanks to AHFF Geoff.


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posted by Ace at 12:58 PM

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