The Importance of Having Eric Holder's Back

By Al Giordano

As Jed says about the news reports regarding the possible appointments of Eric Holder as Attorney General and Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services:

"Notice that with both Holder and Daschle, President-elect Obama has apparently offered the post, and the post has been accepted. No mess, no fuss."

No drama, indeed, compared to the simultaneous dysfunctional circus surrounding the media lobbying campaign and ethical quagmire-without-end of possibly installing Senator Clinton in as Secretary of State.

But there has been a bit of drama-from-below regarding Holder that I'd like to push back against: The suggestion that if somebody served in the Clinton administration that makes him a "Clinton retread" who would somehow impose the fracased politics of the past on the immediate future.

A brief history lesson is in order...

Way back in ancient times - I'm talking about 2007 - the most difficult place to be a supporter of then-Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid was inside the Washington DC beltway.

The Terry McAuliffe wing of the DNC didn't yet have Bill Richardson to call a "Judas" or John Kerry to proclaim "dead," and so their wrath was turned against the first small wave of those they considered turncoats for not backing Senator Clinton's presidential aspirations. Oh, they could tolerate the "progressive bureaucrats" flirtations with John Edwards, who they never really considered to be a threat. But, lordy, if you dared support the long, tall upstart from Illinois, they hated you intensely already.

If you were a Democrat in or around DC and backed Obama for president you were a pariah, shunned, no longer invited to the cocktail parties or policy panels. And no small number of Clinton bandwagoneers would take every chance to remind you that, once the White House had been reconquered, you would be screwed to the wall, and viciously so.

And that's why that some of the teeth-gnashing proclamations that Obama's appointment of Clinton administration veterans Greg Craig as White House Counsel and, now, the reports that Eric Holder may be nominated for Attorney General, somehow signal that "Clinton retreads" will seize the Obama Experiment are bizarrely wrong and lacking in political smarts.

No Obama administration staffers are more guaranteed to be free of Clintonesque manipulation or fantasy than those like Craig and Holder that at great risk to their careers bucked the Clinton machine back when the polls suggested Senator Clinton's "inevitable" nomination to the presidency. They're battle-tested, inoculated and have zero illusions about wanting to relive the failed Clinton presidency. They've learned decisively from its mistakes in a depth and detail that most will never have the chance to do.

Is "failed" too strong a word? Well, in the partisan won-loss category for the Democrats, the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency resulted in significant Republican gains in the Senate, the House, the governorships and state legislatures across the land, even down to the municipal level. That's the objective math. And the quality of Democratic office holders deteriorated during that era, too.

Hope for progressive agendas snapped within the first two years of the Clinton administration. The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 and its "Contract for America" shut down all progressive initiatives, and the Clinton legacy - beyond its tabloid-fodder dysfunctions - turned out to be terribly corporate neoliberal: NAFTA, welfare "reform," the squandering of the post-Soviet peace dividend, and a bipartisan hawkish foreign policy. It all culminated in... Gore-Lieberman 2000 and the Bush-Cheney White House.

(Those that claim that critiques of those that brought us these multiple messes as somehow reflecting "Clinton hate" or "derangement syndrome" have not, without exception, studied or learned from the real results of that era in American politics. Some simply weren't paying much attention to American politics back then, and others should know better but lack historic memory.)

That said, many that do understand just how woefully harmful the Clinton presidency was to progressive politics and the Democratic Party, would do well to think before presuming that anyone that was part of the Clinton White House is therefore carrying its agenda and baggage into Team Obama.

Regarding Craig and Holder and others that openly defied and divorced the Clinton organization to support Obama for president, they burned their bridges consciously with beneficent aforethought last year. And they did so against a vindictive crew that warned them, at the time, that they'd be punished, even ruined, for it. That strongly suggests backbone, principle and political smarts (after all, they also bet early on the winning longshot horse).

Interestingly, not inoculated in the ways that Holder and company are now immune to Clintonism are certain sectors of the liberal Netroots who mistakenly see Senator Clinton as a viable option for Secretary of State. Some simply don't care that much about America's foreign policy or understand the State Department's role and how its Secretary daily determines life and death policies without chaperone from Pennsylvania Avenue. Others, I opine, are suffering a kind of "winner's guilt" after Chicago bested Chappaqua, children that, not understanding the reasons for the separation, wish their divorced parents would get back together all under one roof. Alas, it will take generations to overcome the infantilization of too much in American life and politics.

At Daily Kos, for example, the most influential online water-cooler in American politics, I would estimate this newly-Clinton-illusioned subgroup to be about 20 percent of the commenters, based on this math: that during the primaries, in poll after poll there, support for Clinton had a ceiling of about 10 percent. But in recent days, as the debate over the Secretary of State position has occurred and people have drawn up positions, there seems to be about 30 percent support. These are the people crying, "the primaries are over" as if all the critiques of Clintonism were merely insincere electoral charades or began only last year (and they are of course joined by the 10 percent that are Clinton fanboys-and-girls).

Meanwhile, among the 70 percent or so of the Netroots for whom events have not bamboozled us into thinking that anything at all has changed about Clintonian operating procedure (and have only seen it confirmed by the media freak show and cat-and-mouse Hamlet games surrounding talk of and lobbying for the Secretary of State post), some folks definitely need to learn to see the difference between the ex-Clintonites and the eternally stuck-in-the-90s ones.

Sometimes the best way to test reality is to go see what they are saying on the other side of the ideological spectrum. On the neoconservative right, the gushing over Clinton as Secretary of State from Kissinger on down has been very revealing (and has led some of the right-wing wiseguys that are sometimes capable of seeing the political machinations - in this case John Fund, Rush Limbaugh and Kathryn Jean Lopez - to suggest that we are witnessing another classic Obama "head fake" simply because it seems too good to be true that the Obama that just kicked their asses at the ballot box would so immediately hand back to them that gift that keeps on giving).

The right wing loves the idea of a Secretary of State Clinton.

But they're super scared about what an Attorney General Eric Holder could accomplish to undo all the harm that they have wrought.

To wit: Today's National Review editorial:

Holder is a conventional, check-the-boxes creature of the Left...

He is convinced justice in America needs to be "established" rather than enforced; he's excited about hate crimes and enthusiastic about the constitutionally dubious Violence Against Women Act; he's a supporter of affirmative action and a practitioner of the statistical voodoo that makes it possible to burden police departments with accusations of racial profiling and the states with charges of racially skewed death-penalty enforcement; he's more likely to be animated by a touchy-feely Reno-esque agenda than traditional enforcement against crimes; he's in favor of ending the detentions of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and favors income redistribution to address the supposed root causes of crime...

To be blunt, Holder is a terrible selection. If there's any Obama cabinet nomination that Republicans feel moved to oppose, this should be it.

In other words, if Holder is nominated, the right-wing - ready to toss flowers down the altar for a possible Clinton nomination, because they know how it would give them the permanent opportunity to flummox and bollix Obama from authentically changing US foreign policy - will focus its firepower on trying stop Holder's confirmation. And that's the best unintended endorsement that an Attorney General nominee can have. But it also means we have to protect Holder's back, go into battle, and best them once again.

Just as the Clinton for Sec. of State trial balloon has brought the first executive branch test of whether we at ground level can make a convincing case to keep Obama on his own stated path of no-drama change, the Holder nomination, if it happens, will offer the first test of whether Obama's grassroots base, inside and out of the blogosphere, will be ready and able to have the president-elect's back when he's right.

It's an open secret that if President-elect Obama wants to see what a nightmare it would be to have an adversarial relationship with a significant part of his base on matters of foreign policy, he'll get that and more if he nominates Senator Clinton as Secretary of State. I'm sure I'm not alone among those that would have to migrate from hope mode to watchdog vigilance if that were to become the new executive branch's first big boneheaded mistake.

And if he wants to see what a dream it would be to truly have the backing of one's base on matters of justice and law, he'll likewise get that and more if he nominates Eric Holder as Attorney General.

One would likely be the most damaging Secretary of State since Henry Kissinger: a train wreck in the making.

The other would likely be the best friend of the Bill of Rights at Justice since Ramsey Clark.

Two people, each with experience in the Clinton administration, would be as different as heaven and hell when it comes to governing.

Thus, how we view potential nominations to the new administration should not be about whether a person was ever involved with the Clinton White House, but rather whether each one, as an individual, would propagate its dysfunction or not. Holder has already broken from it. And I'm sure I'm not alone in having his back.

Update: There are already some comments here regarding Holder and drug policy, and I'll try to address them here up front.


I am utterly unconcerned about Holder's past positions as US Attorney or elsewhere regarding mandatory sentencing, marijuana policy and the rest. In fact, I think his past missteps on these matters will make it more possible for progressive changes to be made regarding drug policies on various fronts. He will provide cover for them.

First, because those stances will help him gain Senate confirmation in ways that an on-the-record anti-prohibitionist would not be able to do. Second, because Obama has been quite clear about changes he would make to certain law enforcement policies regarding the drug war.

This video - of Obama in New Hampshire in September 2007 - is a must-view for all of us that want to change drug policies. It clearly shows his agenda on some of the most key matters:



During the campaign, Obama also promised to halt federal raids on medical marijuana clubs. These are very clear policies that require simple one-step instructions to the next Attorney General, who, no matter who it is, will talk a tough game on crime and drugs to provide cover for these kinds of reforms. And I think Holder will be terrific at that. Just my two cents, based on my long experience in the drug policy reform field.



Before I'll welcome Holder

I want to know if he still backs Mandatory Minimum Sentences and enhanced marijuana enforcement, as he did when US Attorney for DC in 1996. Hopefully he'll be asked at Confirfmation hearings, if not before.

"U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an interview that he is considering not only prosecuting more marijuana cases but also asking the D.C. Council to enact stiffer penalties for the sale and use of marijuana.

"We have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important," Holder said, referring to current attitudes toward marijuana use and other offenses such as panhandling...

Holder said he hopes to discourage some of that activity by being tougher on marijuana crimes. New guidelines should be in place by the end of the month, he said, noting that the District could learn from New York's "zero-tolerance" policy."


My diary at kos' place


Democrat for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)

@ Ben

Ben - Of course I read your diary and your cause is my cause, but I'm utterly unworried about Holder on mandatory minimums and marijuana policy and in fact think his hawkish past on the matters will both help him get Senate confirmation and make him an even more effective implementer of Obama's stated positions against imprisoning nonviolent offenders and stopping marijuana club raids, among other drug policy reforms.

Of course you do realize that by raising these two matters, you help him to get confirmed by the Senate, right?

Awesome post, Al

Many thanks for it. 

Hilary as a diversion

Of course, all of the noise about the possible Hillary nomination has come out of the Clinton camp - Obama's people are neither confirming nor denying any of it.


Could the Obama camp be deliberately using the possibility of a Hillary nomination for SoS as a diversion, to keep the media and right-wingers buzzing while far more damaging (to the right-wingers and DLC) appointments like Holder are slipping past them, far below the radar?


If so, Obama is even more shrewd than I gave him credit for.

Clinton spin

My related commentary here.  Appointing Clinton SoS would be a very poor move---its important to pay attention to the source where the Clintons are concerned.  Everything I've seen is spin from their wind machine.  Compare as Al does the AG and HHS appointments---no spin, no drama.  I've been happy not to have to push away all the Clinton spin since she was bested in the primary, this is like a bad flashback...

I have to join with those

who point out that at first you were denying that Hillary for Secretary of State was anything except noise coming from her camp but now you are shifting to acceptance that it's an Obama trial balloon that, if the netrooters don't shoot down, will possibly (probably?) become a reality. 

But regardless of how your assessment on that was, I've read your case for Kerry and against Hillary but, forgive me if this is my own disconnect, why not a comparative case of his foreign policy against hers.  I understand your point about no drama but if Obama's considering her- and no doubt he is- he must have decided drama level wasn't his most important criterion.  I mean could Obama really be surprised by this media frenzy?

One more idea

What are the views of how Daschle at HHS, breaking today, persuade Hillary vis-a-vis staying in the Senate vs. going to State Department?

Cleaning out my link sets and moving on.

This reflexive 'netroots' faux prograssive sqauwk has finally imploded lacking a Bush to beat. That was their one tune and they did it well.

Now, we move to the urgent matters and the Firedogs, Mydd's, Digby's and others show little clue of the adaptability we need to actually do the work of getting out of the oil era woods.

The Clinton era agonies and the Lieberman outrage spew are just useless now. Of course Obama will want to deftly cherry pick the best of the Clinton world while ignoring the worst.

I have a feeling your initial observation that Hill is an imposition from the worst of the bubba partisans is spot on and even Ms Clinton seems reluctant to embrace the job invented for her.

Lieberman will just fade, one apt poster over at 538 noted that Obama can just dissolve the ridiculous Homeland Security department and let its constituent parts go to their pre 9/11 homes leaving Joe without a thing to chair over.

And the people of Connecticut are unlikely to reelect the old reprobate anyway. If you think about it, both of us have probably spent way too much time reading netroots entrails. I know I have but now the whole thing is headed toward useless if it can't find new things to do.

They will just be the mirror parody of right wingnuttia, narcissistic and insufferable in their drive to affect the right posture while the more adept will turn toward these useful things such as helping the poor figure out how to weatherize their homes against the oncoming winter.

If these idiots can't look at the individual merit of each Obama selection, freed from whatever past jobs, they are missing everything. A new world looms, even the corporations are choking.

There is a newer, cleaner, less stupid world to start building now and dilletantes are as helpful as a fart in a crowded elevator.

As of 12/1, I'll finally be done with awful Cambridge and I'll be moving to Pittsfield with a particlar interest in seeding a community farm economy to increase arable land use for sustainable food needed here.

It's cool, you can come home now if you want and there will be a lot going on for those who are alert to the contours of the possible.

The near term war is over, we won and the netroots quacks will increasingly resemble those sad Japanese soldiers who spent a few extra decades in miserable jungles cause they didn't notice the change.

It's funny, after it all the best voices online in their respective fields are you, Nate and Kunstler.. the triumvirate.

The amateur pamphleteers of netroots now either need to attain the hard earned analytical acumen you three have in abundance or find some other calling. I see a huge decline in their readership soon as more and more people find their ways to the grand building we get to do.

Crossposted to DKos


Here they come

As you said Al, here come the Republicans re Holder, with Arlen Specter saying the whole Marc Rich thing will be an issue in any potential confirmation hearings for Holder.


You compared Hillary to the guy who many progressives believe (with some justification) was a war criminal under Nixon and Ford - and threatened to go oppo on Barack just two weeks after his election!

Well, I guess there's no holding back....

You know, in terms of the causes you hold dear, there's at least as strong a case against Holder as there is against Clinton. (See Chiquita Brands etc.) Personally, I think Holder's a fine pick despite his Colombian clientele - hell, if he can change Federal sentencing guidelines he should get the Nobel - but I'm generally supportive of the new President's choices.

I really do think that we elected him and now it's his job to pick his bench; sure, we can kvetch with a bit of Monday-morning QB commentary - it is the blogosphere. But if we want to organize, it should be mainly around issues, not personalities.

PS - "failed" is way too strong, or they're all failures. Who knows, maybe they are, but WJC still ranks numero uno lifetime in that office during my citizenship.

Hey Al...Please cross-post

this at Daily Kos--please, please, PLEASE!!!  It just smacked me upside my duh-head and I am very grateful you took the time to explain this.  I know you'll be poking the beehive for some, but you can handle the heat.


I now see you already did.  My bad.....

If Obama will indeed offer HRC the job

(which is far from certain, since the vetting will be a daunting procedure), I assume it's because he's taking history too seriously, in an almost superstitious manner. Consider this:

He was a boy with a distant father, raised in a family of modest means. He had a curious intellect, devouring history and memorizing passages from Shakespeare. He became a lawyer and settled in Illinois, where he was elected to the state legislature. With relatively little political experience, he decided to run for president. Few believed he stood a chance of winning a primary campaign against the party's heir apparent, a senator from New York.

But the gangly, bookish Illinoisan galvanized millions across a country in crisis with his soaring rhetoric, speaking in big strokes about transcending partisan politics and creating America as it ought to be. He rose from obscurity to clinch his party's nomination and the presidency. The New York senator returned home deeply disappointed and bitter, having fallen to a shrewd political tactician.

Sound familiar?

The year was 1860, and Abraham Lincoln had narrowly defeated Sen. William H. Seward to become the Republican presidential nominee. After winning the presidency, Lincoln disregarded personal animosity and took the unprecedented move of tapping Seward to be his secretary of state.


At first, people wondered whether or not Lincoln would be overshadowed by Seward. But in the end, Seward ended up becoming his closest friend. . . . He went on in history in a more profound way than he ever would have had he stayed just a senator from New York.

Perhaps he's (vainly) hoping that history will repeat itself.
And yes, I have changed my mind on this matter. At first I was cautiously favorable to the idea, but I'm now decidedly against it. Al and others convinced me. It's a very compelling image on a symbolic level (team of rivals, yada yada) but the deeper one inspects this potential move, the less sense it makes. Obama and Clinton had serious disagreements on foreign policy in the primaries (remember her "obliterate Iran" comment? not very reassuring), and she does not have any serious foreign policy experience apart from drinking cups of tea with heads of state and her undistinguished service on the Senate Armed Services Committee. There are literally dozens of fine Democrats who have more expertise and competence on the subject, which will be very needed since Obama doesn't have that much experience in the area himself.

The importance of reading carefully

Tom W - I wrote that HRC would be "the most damaging Sec of State since" Kissinger (a man that quickly and loudly endorsed the idea of appointing her to the post, in case you missed it... without any "I reject and denounce" comeback from Sen. Clinton, I might add).

Hopefully, I won't get the chance to say "I told you so" on that.

Gay rights set back under Clinton

I grew deeply and permanently alienated from the Clintons because I saw the cause that matters most personally to me suffer multiple long-term setbacks under Bill's presidency.

I have long maintained that Clinton cynically chose "gays in the military" as his first significant move on the gay agenda precisely because he knew it was doomed to fail, and that he could point to his attempt on our behalf to advocate for an item that was WAY below ENDA our our community's radar as proof that he was on our side without actually having to accomplish anything.  And DADT was actually worse in practice than the status quo had been.

By DOMA, I was disgusted.  That the man sabotaged his own presidency for some head from an intern finished him off for me forever as anything other than a narcissistic jerk.

Hillary today still views LGBT people as an interest group whose votes must be cultivated by primarily symbolic actions.

Obama sees us as Americans.

I THINK I'm okay with Clinton at SoS

following your logic re Rahm, she'd be stuck taking orders. I like the idea of Feingold, and not Clinton, as the highest profile Democratic sceptic of Obama's policies in the Senate.



Democrat for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)


Al writes above

I am utterly unconcerned about Holder's past positions as US Attorney or elsewhere regarding mandatory sentencing, marijuana policy and the rest. In fact, I think his past missteps on these matters will make it more possible for progressive changes to be made regarding drug policies on various fronts. He will provide cover for them.

First, because those stances will help him gain Senate confirmation in ways that an on-the-record anti-prohibitionist would not be able to do. Second, because Obama has been quite clear about changes he would make to certain law enforcement policies regarding the drug war.

Why not apply the same logic to Hillary? What's good for the goose would appy if it wasn't so sexist.

I must say I am enjoying this.


clinton forgiveness syndrome

I see the increase in support for Hillary Clinton to be less a matter of guilt and more a matter of forgiveness. It wasn't so long ago that the Netroots were freaking out chicken little fashion about whether Clinton was going to demand a floor count and fight for individual superdelegates on the Convention floor, and instead she called for a nomination by acclamation and Bill gave a very pretty speech. She went to Florida and said "No way no McCain" and stumped for him, and the big rivalry was healed with kisses and hugs by Election Day. So I think a lot of people who were very much against Clinton during the final tense primary days were against her for the long-hyped opposition they anticipated, so they have forgiven her for sucking it up and making up, rather than feeling guilty. But I am sure there are some Kossacks who have Hillary guilt too.

Great article Al!

A few thoughts:


Isn't SoS going to be a crummy job in this administration?  Obama sets the policy and Biden would always (as he should) be looking over your shoulder -- the VP never seems to have anything to do and I think it is reasonable to think he'd be the foreign policy specialist.  It just seems like a high profile in the Senate would be much better for HRC.  Plenty of power, TV opps and a greater degree of independence.


I like the idea of Supreme Court for HRC but does it have enough visibility for her?


Al, I agree with your views on the so-called war on drugs.  It would certainly help if federal policy / law was changed, but we'd still have to fight 50 more battles -- one in each state.  I've represented a huge number of clients on drug charges and never set foot in federal criminal court.  Oh wait, we already have an organization in all 50 states...  hmmm....  Maybe this could be a trickle down effect that would actually work!


Thanks for all of your work!

If not Clinton, Kerry or Richardson, then who?

Al (or anyone), accepting the premise that all of this drama is perhaps a "head fake" designed to deny Kerry and Richardson from SOS consideration, and given the fact that Kerry is now seriously considering becoming the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee as a consolation, while Richardson has faded quietly into the the background, who else can reasonably be considered for SOS? Who is well suited to promote the Obama agenda with credibility, authority and sincerity? I have not seen any other names in the offing. Is this an opportunity for "new blood" which requires us to think outside of the box? What are we missing?

if he supports paramilitary

if he supports paramilitary groups in colombia..then i dont know why we are supportive.

Very tight and cogent

Very tight and cogent analysis, Al.

Indeed, there is a huge amount of inertia and power politics that need to be negotiated to maximize Obama's overall political capital.

When Obama makes a bold move, he will need the maximum amount of good will that our system will allow.

More, keep in mind that during the New Deal, FDR had less than twenty Republican Senators to contend with--as well as less than 100 opponents in the House.

Obama seems very adept in scoping out the alignment of forces that he has to contend with.

Lastly, I agree that Clinton as SOS was a head-fake--and my view is that her being passed over will grease the wheels so that she becomes a shoe-in for a nomination to the high court.  That, I think, is her prefered legecy.  More, Obama has been very impressive in his ability to honor the Clintons, helping them save face after a tumultuous primary where many feelings were hurt.

Obama is a gracious winner.  This bodes well toward actually getting something done and winning the election in four years.   The path toward substantial progress is so arduous and winding here in the US--so much so that it really takes two terms to leave much of a mark.


Kerry expected to head Senate Foreign Relations Committee

I think HRC will be SOS and Richardson will be appointed to another Cabinet post.

SOS Rice

@Tonya:  Your answer is Susan Rice

@ Stephen Rose

Stephen Rose - You've written me a number of times asking me to add your blog to the sidebar here as some kind of tit for tat or logrolling because you link to mine.

But your comment above and the shameless suggestion of "sexism" here give two examples of why I neither link to it nor find it interesting to read, and generally skip over your submissions when I run across them at HuffPo.

I don't think you have a clue as to the details of the work of the Secretary of State and how it differs from that of Attorney General. That's fine: I don't have a clue as to how, say, the Health and Human Services Department operates because it is outside of my areas of great interest. But I'm certainly not going to pretend to know about it or opine as if I do.

Nor are you a careful reader: The main thrust of my argument about Clinton as one mentioned for Secretary of State have been:

A. that the media circus surrounding all-things-Clinton - whether her fault or not (and she is both victim of it and enabler of it) - are anathema to the functioning of diplomacy and the discretion it requires.

B. that she's a serial mismanager of organizations and bureaucracies and,

C. there are daily tasks necessary at State to protect human rights across the globe that the White House can't possibly micromanage or even keep track of. Senator Clinton has never at any point in her career showed any consistent interest or passion regarding human rights, has used the issue selectively to demonize some governments for other reasons while covering up for such violations in Colombia and elsewhere. She is hostile to human rights and the doctrine of human rights begun with Jimmy Carter will continue to wither under her watch.

In none of my arguments have I cited her Iraq war vote or voting record, or what clients she might have represented.

The qualities needed to run State are very different than those needed to run Justice. If you can't see that and therefore want to insist that the same filter ought to be applied to both posts, I can only conclude you don't know how they work or really what is at stake in either.

Al, you are the best

Every time I spin off into Booker T Obama land I check back here and you talk me out of it.  I hope you are right

Human rights

Al, you say Hillary Clinton is "hostile to human rights" - in my view, that's simply false. She's a champion of human rights.

Have you forgotten "women's rights are human rights" - a speech delivered in China?

C'mon - this simply over the top. Most destructive since Kissinger and now "hostile" to human rights. I know you're a passionate Clinton opponent and opposing Hillary was a  big part of your cause this year - fair enough in politics - but this seems way too harsh.

Exactly my point, Tom W

Tom W - Your link and claim back my point. Senator Clinton clearly thinks that "human rights" refers to equal and civil rights. They are, however, two distinct areas of law and doctrine. She will be very active, I'm sure, in working for equal rights for sub-groups, but completely doesn't get what "human rights" are in the global context.

Human rights as a matter of law refer to specific crimes - against political dissidents, labor and other organizers, reporters - by authoritarian regimes and their paramilitary surrogates. Throughout Latin America, and the world, this is a daily atrocity. And she's been silent regarding those rights in Colombia, in Mexico and elsewhere while selectively attacking other countries, like Cuba and Venezuela, when there are other reasons to demonize them, using "human rights" as a cudgel. She probably doesn't know that, for example, Venezuela has had the greatest improvement in human rights in the hemisphere over the past decade. She probably doesn't want to know. Nor does she want to know that her friend Uribe in Colombia has the worst record.

Using the phrase "human rights" doesn't make her a champion of them. The way she used it in China only underscores that she doesn't have a friggin' clue to what it means.

Wait a sec...

Al, you're not arguing that Hillary Clinton has less of an understanding/interest in human rights (as defined by specific violations of international law) than what she should have - you're saying she has less than the other candidates for the job.

Your favorite is John Kerry (who now seems locked up for Foreign Affairs, which is great) - does he have more concern for human rights than Hillary Clinton? Than Barack Obama, for that matter?

I don't think so.

Take Darfur - a human rights disaster, no question. But the three Senators above did exactly the same thing: condemned Sudan's admission to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

"No friggin' clue" is just a put-down. This is an accomplished woman who began her campaign for President talking about human rights:

"The world we want is also a world where human rights are respected. By surrendering our values in the name of our safety, the Bush administration has left Americans wondering whether its rhetoric about freedom around the world still applies back home. We have undercut international support for fighting terrorism by suggesting that the job cannot be done without humiliation, infringements on basic rights to privacy and free speech, and even torture. We must once again make human rights a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy and a core element of our conception of democracy."



Al Writes:

"But your comment above and the shameless suggestion of "sexism" here give two examples of why I neither link to it nor find it interesting to read, and generally skip over your submissions when I run across them at HuffPo."

My suggestion of sexism was aimed at me not you. It would NOT have been sexist to apply your logic regarding Holder to Clinton. I hope that's clear. It would have been consistent.

I am not in a very good neighborhood to safely deal with the rejecting part of your note. Suffice to say that I do have a very good audience of folk who read the Obama Blog and value what I say.

At least you appear to have liked my song.That assuages things a bit.

Al, isn't SOS offer lure to get Clinton out of health care?



I share your antipathy for the Clintons anywhere near Barack's White House. Some rumbles in Teddyland are making the SOS "lure" more about getting her mitts far away from health care. I'm believing them. Teddy wants health care reform with his last dying breath and he knows Clinton anywhere in it will delay or sink it big time.


I think Barack knows this too and SOS was only big enough spotlight to lure her away from health care reform battle she desperately wants to lead.


I'm not thrilled with this deal-making if true. SOS is too important a spot to use as carrot but health care reform would do more to help every US citizen, and Clinton under Barack's thumb at State maybe I can live with it. Anybody who mistakes how strongly Barack will be involved with foreign policy wasn't watching his confidence debating Middle East with McCain.


Hillary / human rights / and torture

Don't ya'll remember that until September of 2007, Hillary was not against torture, and then changed her mind only after supposedly talking to some generals?  My god, she's supposed to be female - the nurturer gender - and even a 7-year-old girl knows torture is wrong.  HRC has never shown me anything that indicates she has any true empathy for human beings unless they fit into her "niche" categories (e.g., women's rights in China).

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign yesterday belatedly explained that her flip-flop to oppose torture was an evolution inspired by talks with retired generals.

"Upon reflection and after meeting with former generals and others, Sen. Clinton does not believe that we should be making narrow exceptions to this policy based on hypothetical scenarios," said campaign spokesman Phil Singer.

Clinton (D-N.Y.) came out against all torture - "period" - in Wednesday's Democratic debate after previously telling the Daily News last October it would be okay to torture a terrorist to foil "something imminent."

She    doesn't    get    it.

I hope to hell that Obama - or Michelle - have enough sense to make sure this woman does not become SoS.  I completely agree with Al on this one.  Get a grip, Obama, she was wrong for POTUS and she's just as wrong for SoS.  And for very similar reasons.

Yes: Richardson and Kerry Understand Human Rights

Tom W - And they have each shown the passion for them again and again, consistently and without favorites, and have wielded considerable staff energy in their federal posts to calling out governments across the world on their violations.

I'm not making this up. Those of us abroad in the daily work of defending human rights know that when atrocities happen or need to be prevented beforehand, just which Senators and Congressmen we can go to and get letters written, statements made, and pressure applied, and get results, and which (most of them) are like talking to a brick wall.

Richardson did this at the UN. Kerry's done it for 24 years in the Senate. But human rights defenders get an indifferent ear from your junior United States Senator in New York, even when they go to the lengths of fasting outside her local office (as recently occurred when friends of the late New York journalist Brad Will, assassinated in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006 pled again and again with her office to help force prosecution of his assassins who were captured on camera as they shot at him, but have gone unprosecuted).

They've gotten help from US Rep. Jose Serrano and others on the case. But Senator Clinton, with this as with almost all human rights cases in this hemisphere, has been disturbingly silent and indifferent even when these cases are put in front of her nose.

Those are the facts. Why don't you call her Senate office and ask her to intervene in that assassination case involving her own constituent in Mexico! Then you'll learn, as we have, the hard way the real truth about Senator Clinton and human rights.

Hill doesn't have a snowball from hell's chance.

Alberto is right. You all are being chumps for a Clinton shill media debate. Obama will not be bum rushed and Hill will not be S of S.

It is a stupid pitiful ploy she had no part of and she is increasingly ashamed of the idiot scam.

 Tom W.

As for women's issues...

CodePink is a group of mothers / women who have been advocating peace for the last several years and have now extended their efforts to helping women fight home foreclosure -- including a mother in Queens who had just lost her son in Iraq.

Senator Clinton demonstrated very little interest in their non-violent (often quite creative) pleas for help and compassion and on occasion treated them condescendingly.

Perhaps other women's issues commanded more attention?


Here's an updated page from their site highlighting grass roots efforts that are making a difference in women's lives with or without Hillary's help...

"The passage of the bailout package-—supported by elected Democrats and Republicans alike—did nothing to calm the crisis and certainly has not stemmed the massive tide of foreclosures.

Jocelyne Voltaire
, a single mother who had lived in her Queens Village home since 1987. Her home was scheduled for auction on October 17. There was no government bailout for Jocelyne. Instead, compassionate Americans from all over the country donated to CODEPINK to save Jocelyne’s home. Now we are working with other single mothers to keep the roofs over their heads."

Hard to argue...but you lose me on the Clinton stuff

Well, you make blanket statements in support of Kerry and Richardson and cherry-pick one example on Clinton. I guarantee you there have been times when human rights activists have been exasperated with each of them. Why? Because they're mainstream Democrats.

Kerry was, of course, labeled a near-Bush neocon by some on the pacifist left during his run in 2004, when it was pointed out that many of his advisers were of the hawkish variety (you may recall Rand Beers and some of his views on Colombia) and his own voting record was that of a pro-military centrist Dem.

Richardson, of course, represented Clinton Administration policy in the UN - so where's the difference there? (Sure, he's done wonders with hostage releases).

And I can cherry-pick a story as well: in 1996, against some criticism, the then-first lady met with Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun and rape/torture victim who'd been protesting her treatment at the hands of Guatemalan security forces, standing in the park outside the White House.

No mainstream Dem is going to be the ultimate paragon in this particular area - no Ted Weiss types become president or secretary of state. And as much as I like Joe Serrano, he's not going to be in the cabinet. It's just the way things are, as much as I agree with the principles you state. You know, FDR refused to allow the Saint Louis to dock....

I just think you may have it in for Senator Clinton in mainstream Democratic figures of national standing go, she's spoken out as much as anyone about human rights, her future boss included.

Incidentally, I'd support almost anyone President-elect Obama names to the cabinet at this stage.

Mother Jones speaks up on HRC as SoS

they cross-posted at Huffington.

Oh, and do you think some newly-elected constitutional law expert put this out there?

Of course, wouldn't this also scrap Kerry?

@ Tom W.: passing the "women's rights" threshold

Tom W., if you are going to continue to peddle your Hillary as "champion of human rights" meme, and present one speech (the irony!), as "evidence" of her commitment to "women's rights" (without understanding the nuances and distinctions of either, especially in nonwestern contexts), then give us the track record of initiatives and actual legislation (including the follow up on China) that made an impact on international gender equality.



Obama Had to Give Clinton Something

You didn't think the Clintons were campaigning for Obama for the good of the Democratic Party? Or for us little people?Get real! They are the MacBeths of the political world without the subsequent crisis of conscience. That SoS offer is (part of) the debt Obama owes them for their 'friendship", bought and sold, subject to whim just like everything else they do.  Holder seems like a good choice as well as Daschle. I get a headache at kos for all the emotion and drama and lack of seeing the big picture. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. And patience. 



Janet Napolitano - Secretary of Homeland Security

Penny Pritzker - Commerce Secretary

Napolitano Homeland Security

What do we know about her creds in this area?  I wondered where she might land since I had heard her name up for AG.  Does this mean she can't run against McCain in 2010?  Also a Chicago businesswoman for Commerce - Penny Pritzker.

Interesting Holder Interview

Farai Chideya interviewed Holder for NPR's News and Notes a couple weeks before the election.  Though he didn't get into much detail, he did note that "the next attorney general" would probably make de-politicization of the DoJ and prosecution of corporate malfeasance priorities.  Here:

Unless I'm reading my tea leaves incorrectly...

if Hillary is a wash, and Kerry is somehow co-opted (re: Josselyn above or by senatorial duties), this would leave the SoS as ... wait for it, ...

Richardson! -- as perhaps Mr. Obama wished it in the first place!




Things that make you say hmmm....

The story coming out now about the constitutional roadblock to Hillary's appt. linked above, and here:

Along with the conveniently timed announcement of two women cabinet members. Yesterday on Hardball or some other show the guests were hyperventilating about how the Holder appt. made Hillary's SoS appt that much more likely, because Obama would have to appoint a woman to his cabinet. Alas, it turns out there is more than one woman in the nation qualified to hold a top position. Who woulda thought listening to the punditocracy.

@ Al: Kerry and Int'l Human Rights

I'm recakking that back at Bigleftoutside, your greatest concern witrh Kerry involved South America. is he still 'palling around' with Rand Beers? Would he be likely to bring him along for the ride at State?

For mer, the best test of core respect for international Human Rights lies in the record on Human rights at home. Here's the Senators who voted against PATRIOT ACT renewal.

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Murray (D-WA)
Wyden (D-OR)

Haven't heard that any are under consideration for State.


Democrat for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)

Another Nail?

I know Foggy Bottom is some distance from the West Wing, but with nearly all of Obama's key campaign personnel staffing different parts of the Administration, wouldn't HRC view the climate in the inner sanctums of power a tad oppositional (if not down right hostile) towards her presence, despite any magnanimous gestures from POTUS?

Also, with even Kennedy's people making statements and dropping hints, isn't Richardson's radio silence saying something loudly?

And what about Susan Rice (National Security Advisor?) or Samantha Power? Surely, something is in the works for them?

Al, Would Obama admin suffer if Hillary is not offered

or, God forbid, if she does not want any cabinet position at all ?


Great Castaneda Quote

One of the commenters on Al's post at Daily Kos has a great signature quote that is so very apt.

We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.    

Carlos Castaneda

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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