Newsweek Praises Holder, Contrasts With Gonzales, Who Ran Justice Department 'Like Tammany Hall'

Newsweek falls back on conventional liberal narratives in a gooey profile of attorney general Eric Holder titled "Independent’s Day." The magazine is delighted that Holder wants to investigate and prosecute Bush officials for harsh interrogations. Holder is trying to strike a balance on the independence meter between so-close-it’s-crooked (Alberto Gonzales) and almost irrelevant (Janet Reno):

Alone among cabinet officers, attorneys general are partisan appointees expected to rise above partisanship. All struggle to find a happy medium between loyalty and independence. Few succeed. At one extreme looms Alberto Gonzales, who allowed the Justice Department to be run like Tammany Hall. At the other is Janet Reno, whose righteousness and folksy eccentricities marginalized her within the Clinton administration. Lean too far one way and you corrupt the office, too far the other way and you render yourself impotent. Mindful of history, Holder is trying to get the balance right.

Newsweek didn’t offer harsh judgment on Janet Reno when she started. One caption called her "Integrity Jane." Their Holder profile concentrated on the less-than-harsh judgment of Holder’s buddies:

"As a judge, he had a natural grace," recalls Reid Weingarten, a former Justice Department colleague and a close friend. "He was so sensitive when he sent someone off to prison, the guy would thank him."

Apparently a major force in Holder’s decision to go after the Bushies is Mrs. Holder, who equates Guantanamo with abusive "Deep South under Jim Crow" racism:

When Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, glide into a dinner party they change the atmosphere. In a town famous for its drabness, they're an attractive, poised, and uncommonly elegant pair—not unlike the new first couple. But they're also a study in contrasts. Holder is disarmingly grounded, with none of the false humility that usually signals vanity in a Washington player. He plunges into conversation with a smile, utterly comfortable in his skin. His wife, at first, is more guarded. She grew up in the Deep South under Jim Crow—her sister, Vivian Malone Jones, integrated the University of Alabama—and has a fierce sense of right and wrong. At a recent dinner in a leafy corner of Bethesda, Malone drew a direct line from the sins of America's racial past to the abuses of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Both are examples of "what we have not done in the face of injustice," she said at one point, her Southern accent becoming more discernible as her voice rose with indignation. At the same party, Holder praised the Bush administration for setting up an "effective antiterror infrastructure."

We’re told Holder grew up without much racism and has a "sunny" attitude on race, which seems odd considering the "nation of cowards" speech against clueless white Americans. Notice the tender adjectives Newsweek uses:

He used the infelicitous phrase "nation of cowards" to describe the hair trigger that Americans are on when it comes to race.

Infelicitous? They couldn’t even manage to use "controversial"?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis