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Obama Supports Holder Because “He’s a Race Man”
Posted By Daniel Greenfield On June 27, 2014 @ 12:45 pm In The Point | 10 Comments
Nice to have that in the open. The Politico story on why Holder survived comes down to Obama’s fear of an honest Attorney General (Holder has never been accused of being anything other than a political hack with no respect for the law) and race.
It may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.
“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”
Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.”
Asked to describe Holder’s role, one of his former top aides described him as “Obama’s heat shield.”
Of course that’s not the Attorney General’s job. But Holder puts Team Obama ahead of Team America. He’s a race man.
From the start, the White House staff has been at odds with Holder—a conflict that, my sources told me, has been one of the longest-running hidden dramas of this White House. “He says he’s on Team Obama, but he’s really on Team Holder,” one top Obama aide told me.
The bad blood goes all the way back to a month into Obama’s first term—as the West Wing staff was working 18-hour days to keep the economy from collapsing—when Holder jolted Obama’s team seemingly out of nowhere. Tellingly, the subject was race. Holder informed the White House he planned to deliver a Black History Month speech but never got around to telling Obama’s aides what he would actually say, a habit that would infuriate the White House time and again over the years—and underscore Holder’s special standing in Obama’s world.
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder declared to a gathering of Justice Department employees—a bombshell assertion that caused the predictable rage among Obama’s attackers on the right, who accused him of playing the race card.
Obama’s top political aides—white liberals to a man, and they were all men—didn’t necessarily disagree with Holder’s sentiment; they just thought it was a dumb way of saying it and dangerously ill-timed to boot. Obama was ticked off, too, and did nothing to stop his top advisers David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and Jim Messina from severely restricting Holder’s public utterances and imposing a ban on Sunday show appearances that stands to this day.
But the president’s anger only went so far, and Holder takes no small satisfaction in outlasting those early rivals. In interviews, many of the officials I spoke with offered a blunt explanation for his bond with Obama: For all the president’s success at breaking barriers, Obama is often the only black person in the room when a major decision is being made…
Here’s your post-racial America on a plate. More racist than ever before.
The matchmaker who had brought the two couples together was the ever-present Jarrett…
Holder’s own bond with Jarrett was cemented in 2007 when the two hosted weekly conference calls with other black leaders on behalf of the Obama campaign…
Soon, other aides would be calling the threesome of Obama, Jarrett and Holder the “iron triangle.”
Holder, Jarrett and Susan Rice, then Obama’s U.N. ambassador, were among the few administration officials to receive regular invitations to the president’s private residence in the White House.
Increasingly, Jarrett was providing Holder with support and a back channel for him to appeal decisions made by Obama’s political team. (Holder’s “appeals court” is how some West Wingers saw her.)
Holder views the vote as emblematic of Republicans’ disrespect for Obama and himself, and he thinks that race is one, but not the only, factor in their attacks.
Two people in Holder’s orbit told me he has described appearing before congressional committees as an experience akin to staring at a hostile “wall of Southern men.”
Holder often commiserates about his grillings, via text messages and email, with a group of supportive African-American journalists and public figures, including Rev. Al Sharpton; Juan Williams, the NPR commentator turned Fox contributor; former CNN analyst Roland Martin; Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post; NPR’s Michele Norris; and her husband, Broderick Johnson, a White House aide—a cadre that often encourages Holder to push back harder than his more cautious in-house advisers.
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