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Attorney General Holder's resignation opens coveted, powerful Cabinet post




Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a Sept. 4 news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a Sept. 4 news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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As one of President Barack Obama's longest serving cabinet members, critics of Attorney General Eric Holder have been on tenterhooks awaiting his resignation for many months. So today's news that he will step down means sharp political obituaries are seeing the light.

Constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute writes, "From politicizing Justice Department hiring beyond the wildest accusations against the Bush administration, to running a bizarre guns-to-gangs operation that even Alberto Gonzales couldn’t have concocted, to advocating a racial spoils system at all levels of government, Holder has tarnished the nation’s highest law enforcement office more even than Nixon’s AG John Mitchell."

So how did Holder survive such disdain? As Glenn Thrush wrote in POLITICO magazine: "Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race," and for that reason, he had a protector in the oval office. For the New Yorker, legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin tells a tale of two Holders whose best side shone in recent years: "[After Obama's reelection, Holder] decided to embrace civil rights as his cause. His civil-rights division filed lawsuits against the voting restrictions... He began the process of reducing the number of nonviolent offenders in the federal prison population."

What stands out for you in the tenure of AG Holder? Who are the possible successors?

Guest:

Tim Phelps, Justice Department reporter for the Los Angeles Times

Blake Hounshell, deputy editor of POLITICO Magazine