On Thursday morning, the Justice Department confirmed that Attorney General Eric Holder would be resigning his post, and on Thursday afternoon, President Obama made the official announcement of Holder’s departure. Holder is currently the fourth-longest-serving AG in U.S. history, but since he’s going to stay on until a replacement is found, he has a shot at being the third-longest serving AG. He’d surpass Attorney General Homer Cummings for that spot in December. Attorney General William Wirt is probably safe. He served for almost 12 years.
Holder was the first black attorney general, and was the outspoken advocate for racial justice that many wished President Obama would be, at a time of renewed attacks on voting and other civil rights. He’s also been a popular targetfor conservatives, as a result. Opposition to government surveillance and counter-terrorism programs have also made Holder a flashpoint for the anti-Obama libertarian left.
In a statement from the State Dining Room of the White House, President Obama delivered warm remarks on Holder’s resignation, revealing that the two discussed the possibility over the summer. and lauding his work at the Justice Department. He also revealed that Holder will stay on until his successor is confirmed, which, depending on the outcome of the midterm elections, could take awhile. In an unprecedented move, as far back as I can remember, the event actually started almost two minutes earlier than scheduled:
An emotional Holder also delivered brief remarks, in which he thanked his Friend-in-Chief. With a crack in his voice, Holder said,
“I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity that you gave me to serve, and for giving you the greatest honor of my professional life. We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that. In good times and in bad, in things personal and in things professional, you have been there for me. I’m proud to call you my friend.”
He spoke passionately about the work his Justice Department has done, and the work that still needs to be done. In thanking his department colleagues, Holder told them, “I want to thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice, and aimed at the North Star.”
The effort to replace Holder will be a strenuous one. Republicans have been making a hash out of the confirmation process for years, and that was while they were in the minority. On the other hand, the next attorney general will have to carry on Holder’s fierce advocacy of voting rights, and assist the president with his actions on immigration. Anyone qualified to do that job will necessarily face an uphill fight against Republicans in the Senate. The post is too important for the kind of compromise we’ve seen Obama make elsewhere, so maybe Holder will end up giving Janet Reno a run for the longevity money after all.