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What Was the Hold Up?

1:37 PM, Dec 2, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The New York Times reports on Obama's designate for Attorney General:

Mr. Holder's supporters portray him as having been a relatively uninvolved bystander caught in a Clinton-era controversy, the remarkable granting of a last-minute pardon by President Bill Clinton to a fugitive from justice. But interviews and an examination of Congressional records show that Mr. Holder, who at the time of the pardon was the deputy attorney general, was more deeply involved in the Rich pardon than his supporters acknowledge.

Holder facilitated a pardon for a Democratic fundraiser/fugitive from justice. Holder's decision to support that pardon marked a serious failure of judgment, and it has raised questions about his fitness for the job even among Democratic partisans. But not once did the New York Times take up the issue during the campaign, even though it was widely assumed that Holder was on track for the job of AG. In fact, the only time the paper seems to have mentioned the Rich pardon in conjunction with the Obama campaign was in the course of a story about Obama fighting back against "dishonest smears." Now, a month after the campaign, we get a story about how Holder's role in the pardoning of Rich was, in fact, much deeper than Obama's supporters -- including, apparently, the New York Times -- had previously acknowledged.

Greg Craig, another of Obama's close advisers, has been named White House counsel. Craig also came in for some conservative criticism during the campaign, but again there was little pick up in the national press. Craig is well respected in Washington on both sides of the aisle, but his client list over the last 20 years includes some unsavory characters, including foreign leaders accused of war crimes and the murder of American troops. Still, it was only after the election that anyone really started asking questions about how a man with so many clients "at odds with the U.S." could serve as White House counsel.

Barack Obama's decisive victory, and the close relationship he had with Holder and Craig during the campaign, insulate both from any real criticism after the fact -- they won, and were cleansed of their sins in the process. Republicans may ask Holder some tough questions in his confirmation hearings, but his confirmation is and should be a forgone conclusion. Still, that doesn't let the Times off the hook. How does that paper explain only now getting around to an examination of Congressional records, while playing Holder's role in the Rich pardon as little more than a smear during its campaign coverage? Perhaps all their best investigative reporters were too busy soliciting underage girls on Facebook to dig into these issues when they were relevant.