Loretta Lynch loves Chaucer.
Have you ever tried reading The Canterbury Tales? I couldn’t even make it through the Cliff Notes. It takes a special intellect to make sense of Chaucer and come out of the experience with all your marbles.
So, I give props to President Obama’s attorney general nominee for having a first rate mind. But beyond the ability to absorb arcane 14th century literature, does Lynch have the qualifications, skills and temperament to be a good, if not outstanding, attorney general? Let’s consider her record.
Her academic credentials are impressive. Harvard undergraduate. Harvard Law School. Given her humble upbringing in Greensboro, North Carolina, Lynch’s educational achievements are extraordinary and admirable.
After a few years of litigation at a top-notch law firm, Lynch became a federal prosecutor winning convictions in a string of difficult cases, including the infamous Abner Louima trial in which New York City police officers beat and sexually assaulted the Haitian immigrant.
She has twice been appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Each time she was confirmed by Senate acclamation. No small achievement.
During her double tenure she aggressively pursued organized crime, financial fraud and terrorism. These are not easy cases to prosecute. Yet, she did so with remarkable success.
So, Lynch is both highly qualified and abundantly experienced to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Indeed, she has more “legal chops” than outgoing A.G., Eric Holder.
But does she have the temperament? If that quality is measured by independence and objectivity, she could do no worse than Holder. In an office that demands judgment unconstrained by partisan influences, especially from the president, Holder is an abject failure. From the moment he was sworn in, he politicized the Justice Department by adhering faithfully to the whims and wishes of his friend and benefactor, President Obama.
Among the copious examples is the action taken by Holder in the wake of the I.R.S. targeting scandal. Instead of appointing an impartial special prosecutor, he named an Obama donor and avowed supporter to lead the agency’s investigation (if you can call it that) into whether the president and his administration used political thuggery to intimidate and punish Republican groups during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. It has gone nowhere, which is no surprise. Is there any serious doubt that Holder is motivated by a desire to protect his friend, the president? Even if he is not, the appearance of impropriety is stunning in its audacity.
There should be a rule that presidents are not allowed to appoint friends or cronies as attorneys general. It was a lesson learned during Watergate when John Mitchell brazenly shilled for Richard Nixon and, in the process, gutted any semblance of integrity at the Department of Justice. We know how that story ended. Mitchell went to prison, while Nixon escaped the hoosegow thanks to a pardon.
Before that, President John F. Kennedy was heavily criticized when he appointed his own brother to be Attorney General. It was regarded as blatant nepotism inasmuch as Robert Kennedy had a comparatively thin legal resume and little experience normally befitting the high office. His appointment to preside over Justice shredded all impartiality and independence from the White House.
Fast forward several decades and the nomination of Lynch to replace Holder. Unlike her predecessor, she has no close ties to Obama. She is not a friend. There is no history or evidence to suggest she will use her high office to act like a carnival barker in abetting the political manifesto of President Obama. If confirmed, Lynch has the potential to breathe new life and a principled stewardship into a vital department that has lost sight of its own name, Justice.
Under Holder, it has evolved into the Department of Cover-up. He has actively sought to hide or suppress information in a variety of scandals, from the IRS targeting case… to Benghazi… to Operation Fast and Furious. The latter earned him the distinction of becoming the first attorney general to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives.
Holder’s real contempt is for the truth. And that is his sad legacy.
Loretta Lynch, if she remembers her beloved Chaucer, can change all that. As Chaucer said, “Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”