In his opening statement for his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Obama’s nominee for attorney general promised a radical shift away from the policies of the Bush years. He listed his goals as terrorism protection, a less partisan department, and a return to the protection of civil rights and the American consumer.
Holder said his most important goal is protecting America from terrorism in, “I will work to strengthen the activities of the federal government that protect the American people from terrorism. Nothing I will do is more important.”
The difference is that Holder will do this in a Constitutional way, “I will use every available tactic to defeat our adversaries, and I will do so within the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Adherence to the rule of law strengthens security by depriving terrorist organizations of their prime recruiting tools. America must be a beacon to the world. We will lead by strength, we will lead by wisdom and we will lead by example.”
He also stated the goal of restoring credibility to the Department of Justice, “I will work to restore the credibility of a Department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference. Law enforcement decisions and personnel actions must be untainted by partisanship. Under my stewardship, the Department of Justice will serve justice, not the fleeting interests of any political party.”
On the topic of civil rights Holder said, “DOJ must defend the civil rights of every American. In the last eight years, vital federal laws designed to protect rights in the workplace, the housing market and the voting booth have languished. Improper political hiring has undermined this important mission. That must change and I intend to make this a priority as Attorney General.”
He also discussed the need to improve consumer protections, “We need smart antitrust enforcement to prevent and punish unlawful conduct that hurts markets, excludes competition and harms consumer welfare. DOJ should also reinvigorate its efforts to protect the public in areas such as food and drug safety and consumer product safety. And we must work actively with EPA and other agencies to protect the environment.”
I think the most important of these goals is the restoring of the credibility of the Department of Justice. A big step in that direction would be getting the partisanship out of the department. The big statement from Holder at the morning session was an acknowledgment that water boarding is torture, but the need to reform the DOJ goes beyond torture, and to the fact that the Bush administration stripped the most important law enforcement agency in the country of its independence. The Department of Justice needs to stop working for the White House, and go back to working for the American people.