Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Obama, A Question Of Judgement

For quite some time, Americans have dreamed of having a "common man" in the White House, someone just like them. It was a dream that never came to fruition simply because of the logistics of running for the high office coupled with the price tag. Further, the intense scrutiny of the vetting process is prohibitive to most common men since, as such, they again have little resources to afford to cover up the skeletons we all have. What happened to Joe the Plumber should serve as a prime example.

What we have now, however, is the next best thing, depending on one's perspective. Barack Obama is the president-elect, and while he is far from being a commoner, he does lack experience and is therefore an empty canvass. His promises of change and hope have already begun to yellow around the edges, though, as he begins to build his cabinet; most of the bricks are used.

Aside from the obvious problem this causes, that being the erasure of the promise, it is not necessarily a bad thing since the neophyte will need to surround himself with people who are familiar with the process, people with experience. The trick is to pick people with good experience, though, and not someone who just happened to have performed in a similar role once before.

Eric Holder was assistant Attorney General in the Clinton administration, so yes, he does have experience, but what was the nature and the outcome of that experience? The pardon of Marc Rich immediately comes to mind.

Breitbart news has found a video of hearings on the Rich pardon from 2001, in which Eric Holder is grilled by Congressman Bob Barr. During that testimony, Barr asked Holder if he made a recommendation to the president on the Rich pardon, to which he said that he made the recommendation to the White House Counsel. When Barr asked if the White House Counsel asked on behalf of the president, Holder stated that he didn't "know the process there".

An incredulous Barr then asked, "You don't know what the process is there?" It would seem that an assistant attorney general should know who the White House Counsel reports to, one would think. But the other half of the problem with Holder is his involvement with the pardon itself.

The New York Times on Saturday was kind enough to provide a neat little synopsis of why the Rich case is significant at all. (Emphasis mine).

A little history first. In 1983, Marc Rich was indicted along with his partner, Pincus Green, and their companies on 65 counts of defrauding the I.R.S., mail fraud, tax evasion, racketeering, defrauding the Treasury and trading with the enemy. (The last of these was for an oil deal with Iran while it held American hostages.) On hearing that they were about to be prosecuted, they fled to Switzerland. For the next 17 years, Mr. Rich ducked extradition requests as well as attempts by federal marshals to arrest him in France, England, Finland and elsewhere.

Going back to the testimony of 2001, Holder told Barr that, regarding the pardon of Rich, he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable", despite his own prosecutors vigorously pursuing the case against Rich. This also caused Barr severe perplexity.

The president-elect may need to surround himself with experienced people, but this is not the way to start.

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