Ever since the announcement was made that Loretta Lynch was President Obama’s nominee to succeed Eric Holder as attorney general, there’s been media speculation about the president having reached beyond his inner circle to make that choice, a far cry from his selection of the departing Holder. The president hardly would admit it but, frankly, he didn’t have many other cards to play – cards other than an African American candidate with standout credentials for the job, that is. That it turned out to be a prosecutor with an impeccable record in these parts who, with her presumed confirmation, will become the first woman of her race to serve as the country’s top law enforcement figure, is indicative of a more perfect alignment of the stars than the president could have hoped.
But for this replacement move, Holder’s departure would have left the president without a single African American on his front-line administration team (some might argue that the presence of Susan Rice, the national security adviser, refutes this assertion but there’s no disputing the hierarchical distinction with a department-head cabinet post).
We have always been of the view that President Obama has appeared to bend over too far backwards to soften a “black president” characterization, most dramatically epitomized in Holder’s being the solitary person-of-color representation in the cabinet. Absolutely no way would it not have been possible to come up with at least one other person of color fit for cabinet duty. Never mind the bloodthirsty predators who have been at the president’s throat since the start of his tenure, this was a bit of half-stepping we hoped, to no avail, Obama would address once he crossed the Rubicon to a second term in 2012.
Although she is no Obama crony per se, Lynch’s enviable standing in the justice establishment probably made the president’s selection of her something of a no-brainer. Given an atmosphere in Washington that is now even more charged than usual with rancorous political division, Lynch’s reputation for not allowing partisan political considerations to influence professional discharge of her responsibilities surely would have factored in the president’s reckoning. The New York Times, reporting on her nomination, listed some of the public officials prosecuted by Lynch in the role of U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as evidence of her personal code to play no favorites politically. The list including, said The Times, “Rep. Michael G. Grimm, a Republican, and State Senator John L. Sampson, former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and Assemblyman Thomas F. Boyland Jr., all Democrats.”
Bottom line is that even if the president, based on his modus operandi to this point, would prefer that key appointees be persons with whom he has had a personal history, it’s clear that his pick of Loretta Lynch is tantamount to having struck gold. In one stroke he heads off what necessarily would have been considerable discontent in the African American community if Holder’s replacement did not, both as symbol and in substance, seem a worthy substitute, while at the same time throwing up a nominee not likely to have a battle royal attend her Senate confirmation process. There was solid reason to expect the latter. On the two occasions when she has been named to the New York U.S attorney’s post – in the late ’90 as a Clinton appointee and when appointed by Obama in 2010 — Lynch was confirmed in the Senate by acclamation.
In light of all that, one might be persuaded to think the president’s nomination of Lynch in early November with an expectation of confirmation being secured before the end of the year was altogether reasonable. Only that such a scenario doesn’t cater for the bluster typically found within the GOP ranks. And, as if on cue, has come rumbling about having Lynch’s confirmation hearings delayed until January, when the new Congress convenes with Republicans holding a Senate majority.
What do we have here? Some of the earlier referenced predators all psyched about another opportunity to stick a finger in this president’s eye? The president’s nominee for attorney general has not only been twice before vetted by the Senate, but so convincingly approved as to have the voting routine set aside. What circus trappings do some Republicans think necessary to bring to the task of swiftly clearing Loretta Lynch to start in on her job? While he remains Senate majority leader, Harry Reid should be firm about having none of it and stop this tomfoolery in its tracks.
Eric Holder’s are huge shoes to fill. She may or may not opt for appreciably changing the script as her predecessor thought to write it, but any which way, Lynch has clearly proven herself up to the challenge.