Bravely entering the lion’s den — delivering a speech in praise of left-wing, “pro bono” lawyering to a group of left-wing, pro bono lawyers — Attorney General Eric Holder recently declared that “lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be, treated as what they are: patriots.”
Sure they are. After all, Holder explained, they “reaffirm our nation’s most essential and enduring values” — like the value we place on coming to the aid of our enemies in wartime. And let’s not forget the value we place on advocating for the release of those enemies who, as night follows day, then return to the business of killing Americans. Sure, the nation somehow missed these essential and enduring values in the two-plus centuries between the Revolutionary War and the War on Terror, but hey, who’s counting?
The attorney general’s encomium was prompted by critics who had embarrassed him, finally, into disclosing at least some of the names of former Gitmo Bar members he recruited for policymaking jobs at DOJ. They “do not deserve to have their own values questioned,” he said of these lawyers. Just like many attorneys at Covington & Burling, Holder’s former firm (which made representing enemy combatants its biggest “pro bono” project), they answered the call of “our values” because, you know, the detainees are so very “unpopular” among the American legal profession.
Truth be told, what’s most unpopular in our elite legal circles is the Bush administration. Bush’s lawyers approved, and Bush’s executive agencies carried out, aggressive counterterrorism policies on interrogation, detention, and surveillance after some of the Gitmo Bar’s clients killed nearly 3,000 Americans. What about those unpopular lawyers and agents? For some reason, Covington & Burling and the other barrister battalions did not volunteer to represent them. And Holder wasn’t content merely to question their “values”; he accused them of war crimes.
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