Conservatives, led by former Bush adviser Karl Rove, are hoping to use the upcoming confirmation hearing of Eric Holder, President-elect Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, to “lay down a marker” that will show they “they can remain relevant” after their electoral losses. Though GOP opposition is mainly focusing on Holder’s role in the pardon of Marc Rich, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) claimed yesterday that Holder’s views on terrorism laws will be an issue too.
Speaking to right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, Kyl said that Holder had made “some very unfortunate statements about our interrogation” of terrorists, which made him think “he is not going to be supportive of the Patriot Act [and] the FISA law.” Kyl claimed this may be reason to oppose his nomination:
KYL: I think Eric Holder will have some problems. He has not been able to stand up to his bosses in the past, President Clinton when he wanted to do pardons that I think Holder must have realized were big mistakes but he facilitated. And he’s also made some very unfortunate statements about our interrogation of prisoners, terrorists, and other things that lead me to believe that he is not going to be supportive of the Patriot Act, the FISA law, and others. And if he can’t be supportive of those laws, then he shouldn’t be Attorney General.
Though it’s true that Holder has spoken out strongly against the excesses of the Bush administration, Kyl simply has his facts wrong about Holder’s position on the Patriot Act. In 2004, Holder told CNN that he doesn’t question “the need for the Patriot Act.” At the same time, Holder believes that enforcement of the law needs oversight:
HOLDER: I think in a lot of ways, the problem that I had with the enforcement of the act is that this administration said essentially trust us. We’re not going to involve judges, we’re not going to report to Congress on what we’re doing, and I think our history has shown us that we are best when we operate as people governed by the law as opposed to putting our trust in people and that’s the problem I have.
As for Holder’s views on FISA, he’s on the record opposing President Bush’s bypassing of the law, saying in June that he never thought he “would see that a President would act in direct defiance of Federal law by authorizing warentless NSA surveillance of American citizens.”
Apparently, Holder’s belief that “we are best when we operate as people governed by the law” is reason enough for Kyl to oppose Holder’s nomination to be the nation’s chief enforcer of the law.