Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eric Holder and the Art of Public Relations

According to conventional wisdom in public relations, it pays to lower public expectations so that your actual performance will exceed them. Eric Holder is getting the hang of the first part of that prescription. A few months ago I was shocked that the Attorney General of the United States didn’t have an answer when Lindsey Graham predictably asked him at a Senate hearing whether it would be Justice Department Policy to Mirandize Osama bin Laden in the event that we captured him. You had to figure that Holder would be ready to hit the ball out of the park if he were ever thrown that pitch again.

Yet here, according to the Associated Press, is how he answered substantially the same question at a congressional hearing yesterday:

"’Let's deal with reality,’ Holder said. ‘The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in an American courtroom.’

"Pressed further on that point, Holder said: ‘The possibility of catching him alive is infinitesimal. He will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people so he can't be captured by us.’”
By the end of her first law school class, every law student has discovered that the standard way lawyers evaluate legal positions is by determining whether they have implausible implications in artfully defined hypothetical situations. Before her first moot court, she knows that this is not a professional answer to a hypothetical question: “I have to compliment you on your vivid imagination Justice Scalia, but that’s not going to happen.” Yet, after three months of preparation, the Attorney General’s well-rehearsed answer to a question designed to flesh out his legal position amounted to a hypothetical war dance over a hypothetical corpse.

Who would have thought that Holder wouldn’t be able to measure up to the expectations he lowered so drastically three months earlier? Jane Mayer has protrayed Holder as a lonely but insistent voice for the rule of law in an administration that’s increasingly inclined to cut legal corners in dealing with terrorist threats. To me, he just sounds empty-headed.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I guess he answered the question. Yes, he would Mirandize Osama bin Laden upon capture. But more to the point, I sure hope there is a meeting going on in the White House today about replacing Holder to avoid further embarrassment. The dems wanted to impeach Gonzales for high crimes and misdemeanors. If only we could impeach for pure empty-headedness. This guy has got to go. Fast.

Koz said...

Let's also mention that AG Holder's answer is also wrong on its merits as well. If OBL is still alive, it is entirely possible that he will be captured alive, like KSM and Saddam Hussein. To say that such a possibility is too remote for concern is ridiculous.