No one who knows Durham’s Loretta Lynch and her family was surprised by President Obama’s nomination of her to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general. The only question is why it took so long.
Lynch is in her second term as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She has been a force to contend with in high-level prosecutions of the high and mighty, most recently Rep. Michael Grimm, a New York Republican accused of squirreling away $1 million from the IRS.
Growing up in Durham, where her father, the Rev. Lorenzo A. Lynch Sr., was pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, Lynch was immersed in the Democratic politics of this town. She finished Durham High School in 1977, went off to Harvard University and Harvard Law, and never looked back.
Now she’s on track to the top law enforcement job in the United States, but I suspect the president nominated her not just on the strength of her resume, but also as a buffer against the coming GOP majority in Congress.
As others have noted, Republican rejection of a black, female attorney-general designate would produce tremendous blowback against the GOP, still smarting as the “war on women” party.
She seems likely to sail through the Senate nomination hearings, having already made two passages for confirmation as U.S. attorney. In other words, she’s been thoroughly vetted.
That’s the easy part.
The big question is whether Lynch will continue Holder’s ruinous policies that have politicized the Justice Department, produced an unprecedented regime of lies and deceptions (for one, think Fast and Furious, the ditzy gun-running scheme to Mexico that resulted in the death of a Border Patrol Officer and numerous Mexican citizens).
Holder seems likely to go down as the worst attorney general since A. Mitchell Palmer. He presided over the 1920s Red Scare that left the Constitution gasping for air.
OK, John Mitchell should share Palmer’s distinction. Mitchell was part and parcel of the 1970s Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency or face removal through impeachment.
The point is, Lynch has a splendid opportunity to put the justice back into Justice.
Holder’s in-your-face contempt for precedent and his tendency to overlook egregious lawbreaking by minority groups (The New Black Panthers voter intimidation case in 2008, for example) are powerful indictments of his failed leadership.
The Justice Department, like the Internal Revenue Service, has near-unlimited power in the wrong hands to crush individuals and organizations for ideological reasons. Remember Lois Lerner at the IRS and those conservative non-profits that she deep-sixed because they were anathema to the White House?
This was the raw exercise of power, based on one simple premise: Who’s going to stop us?
Nothing quite illustrates this imperium like Obama’s coming executive amnesty for 5 million or so illegal immigrants. Obama says he must act unilaterally because the crisis is upon us, and a gridlocked Congress won’t do anything about it.
Rule by ideological fiat, the stuff of third-world dictatorships, is foreign to the American experience. Historically, presidents have used executive orders in response to national security issues and natural disasters. Hence, Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces by executive order in 1948, a prescient move two years before the Korean War.
Loretta Lynch’s views on using executive amnesty to bypass Congress on immigration reform – to unilaterally change the laws with the stroke of a pen – aren’t yet known.
And they might not be until her Senate nomination hearings, which have not been scheduled. Meanwhile, Obama can declare executive amnesty at any time.
Let’s remember the lies and deceptions: Obama once said executive amnesty would “betray” the Constitution. Now he says it doesn’t. No other president has proposed such a vast bypass of congressional prerogative and the public will.
Ask yourself this, as I hope Loretta Lynch is asking herself: If Obama gets away with this, is there no end to his or another president’s usurpation of power?