When President-elect Obama nominated Eric Holder to be Attorney General, Karl Rove called him the “one controversial nominee,” and urged conservatives to “examine” him. Chris Matthews reported that Rove “is going to be helping lead the fight against Eric Holder,” pushing his involvement in controversial Clinton policies including the pardon of Marc Rich.
Now Senate Republicans are taking Rove’s marching orders, latching onto Holder as “the most vulnerable” of Obama’s nominees. Yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) lashed out at Holder, calling into question “issues of [Holder's] character” and suggesting Holder acquiesced to President Clinton too readily.
In a conference call this morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) continued the assault, saying that “it’s not going to be a smooth confirmation” for Holder. He evoked Holder’s very tenuous ties to embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich as reason to be suspicious of the nominee:
GRASSLEY: It signals that it’s not going to be a smooth confirmation. It doesn’t signal that he may not be confirmed. … [H]e was a counsel or at least Governor Blagojevich had sought to have him involved with something with race tracks in Illinois and casinos, I think. And so we’re trying to get freedom of information on that because we need to know what the relationship is with Governor Blagojevich. And I don’t say that in denigrating in any way except Governor Blagojevich’s recent troubles raises questions with anybody that’s had a relationship with him. … [I]t’s not going to be smooth sailing.
Ironically, just minutes before asserting that “anybody that’s had a relationship” with Blagojevich “raises questions,” Grassley insisted that the Senate must seat Blagojevich-appointed Roland Burris. “He’s got a perfect right to have that seat,” Grassley said.
Responding to the conservative attacks, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — who already agreed to postpone Holder’s nomination hearing to give Republicans more time to dig into his record — said, “Any effort to question his character is unfounded. Every Republican voted for Alberto Gonzales, and felt his character merited confirmation. Certainly Eric Holder greatly exceeds that test.”