1st black AG (yawn!)? Is anyone still keeping score?


So we’re told Eric Holder would be another historic "first:"

WASHINGTON — Eric Holder, a former No.
2 Justice Department official, has been told that he can become the
nation’s first African-American attorney general, a person with
firsthand knowledge said Tuesday.

While Obama hasn’t formally
tapped Holder, one person with direct knowledge said "it’s his if he
wants it." This individual asked to remain anonymous because of the
sensitivity of the matter.

Beyond being a history-making
appointment, Holder would be faced with some of the nation’s most
divisive legal controversies, including the Bush administration
policies on torture, electronic eavesdropping, the extent of
presidential power and the imprisonment of terror suspects without
charges, trials or the right to challenge their detention….

Which makes me wonder: Now that everyone seems agreed that we just elected our first black president (my quibbles about the terminology aside), just how big a deal is it to have a black AG? Or whatever the job.

And at what point to we stop keeping track? When does it no longer excite comment? Or when does it get to be like baseball stats? I can hear my wife’s cousin Tim McCarver saying, "Joe, this is the first time we’ve seen a mustachioed AG nominee chosen by a left-handed president from Hawaii in the post-election season…"

23 thoughts on “1st black AG (yawn!)? Is anyone still keeping score?

  1. jfx

    Which reminds me…Janet Reno was the first woman to be US AG.
    It’s strange how that was phrased in the news piece you quoted. I seriously doubt the opportunity was presented to Holder in that frame, but the writer makes it seem as if Obama called Holder and dropped the race-kin bomb on him: “Hey dawg, it’s B.O., first black Prez. Wanna be the first black AG?!”

  2. WWB

    I prefer to think of it as electing the first truly liberal President in … well, maybe ever. That’s the real story and it’s about time.

  3. Rich

    It doesn’t surprise me that you would not see the significance of having an African American as AG in country that began as a slave-holding republic and which continued to oppress, impoverish, and disenfranchise black people right up through the 60s.
    But just as you fail to see the significance of having a black person in charge of the Justice Dept. of the United States, I do NOT fail to note the increasing insignificance politically of red states and red-state thinking.

  4. Ozzie

    The red-state thinking has a definite sinister side to it, too. Quoting from this article:

    Rush Limbaugh, the doyen of conservative talk radio hosts, last week blamed Mr Obama for continuing stock market falls: “This is an Obama recession, might turn into a depression,” he said. “He hasn’t done anything yet, but his ideas are killing the economy.”

    I don’t know the context, because I don’t listen to Rush, but the negativism in general is chilling, especially if these people keep fanning the flames.

  5. Brad Warthen

    What?! We had slavery in the U.S.? Why doesn’t anybody tell me these things?

    You’re kidding me with that "red-state thinking" stuff and the lecture on slavery, right? Whom do you think you are addressing, a slow third-grader?

    Does it not occur to you that maybe, just maybe, we went way PAST being surprised that an AG has dark skin, now that Barack Obama is going to be president? Didn’t that kind of move the bar on our ability to be impressed?

    As I noted in a previous post, near as I can recall, Malcolm X got tired of "first black this or that" stories back in the 40s. I think his point was that we should take such things as a matter of course. What I wonder is when the rest of us are going to be able to free our minds to do that.

    Would it not be wonderfully cool if we didn’t notice whether Obama’s Cabinet is all black (oops; he blew it with Daschle), all white or in between? Wouldn’t that be great?

    I don’t know what "color" YOUR state is, Rich (red, blue, black, white), but one of the finest nights in the history of MY state was when, on the night of Obama’s victory in the South Carolina primary, his supporters chanted "Race doesn’t matter." I wasn’t privileged to be there (being stuck on live TV that night), but just hearing about it was thrilling to me. We crossed a threshold that night that was WAY more impressive to me than the skin color of somebody being appointed to a Cabinet post.

    But I guess that’s what you’d call "red-state thinking," whatever the hell that is.

  6. Ozzie

    Being an evangelical myself, I see a lot of negative stuff about Obama, described partly in the article I cited. That is a part what I would mean by “red-state thinking.”
    I don’t know what percentage of people are actually going out an buying guns, but I hope it is a small, passing phenomenon. There just seems to be a lot of scared people out there, and scared people act irrationally.
    Rush’s use of language plays into all that–I’m worried about a hate backlash, and the continued polarizing effect.

  7. Lee Muller

    Rush Limbaugh is merely reporting the news, that many experts on Wall Street, since before the election, have said the sell of in stocks is largely due to people trying to avoid the higher taxes threatened by Obama if they have a profit now, and to cash out assets in their retirement plans so they can quickly close those out ahead of the Democrats’ threats to seize individual retirement accounts in 2009.
    We are not in a recession yet, so it is not an “Obama recession”…yet.
    The stock sell off began when Obama sewed up the nomination and accelerated with his election. If Obama raises taxes, and the Democrats fail to wring huge wage and benefits concessions from the UAW before Christmas, they will cause a recession.

  8. John

    What…Janet Reno didn’t want the job? This is shaping up to be Clinton, round 3. Look out for those pardons. There should be plenty in need after this bunch is finished. What a disaster!

  9. Rich

    “Red-state thinking” would be the belief that this is essentially a center-right country and that the basic agenda of the Republican Party is unassailable, even when they lose. This kind of thinking sees the adjective “liberal” as evil and has made many liberals fear a public backlash if they do not espouse socially conservative positions.
    This country is leaning to the left and I believe the change is becoming decisive. The more people vote in this country, the more the entire body politic leans to the left and the electoral alliance of solid blue and swing states can solidify into a new, semi-permanent liberal bent.
    California may have voted against gay marriage, but you have to look at the effective campaign the Mormon church mounted against it. Now there is recourse to the courts and the proposition may be legally defeated there on the basis of the indefeasibility of American citizens’ right to privacy–not a mere penumbra of the Bill of Rights but a realistic and increasingly compelling interpretation of the Tenth Amendment.
    Once again, as I have said before, Red States must moderate their thinking or get “Left Behind.” Tim LaHaye could write a sequel to his popular, but loony series of novels in which the New Jerusalem will be governed by a broad coalition of liberal Democrats who come to power not through divine intervention (which I see no reason to believe will ever happen) but through an honest ballot.

  10. p.m.

    The 10th Amendment reads: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
    There is no right to privacy in those words, nor right to gay marriage, nor right to a chicken in every pot. No “realistic and increasingly compelling interpretation” of those words could produce such rights — within reason. No specific right is mentioned. In United States v. Sprague (1931), the Supreme Court noted that the amendment “added nothing to the [Constitution] as originally ratified.”
    So once more I say, the liberals have won one battle, and hard they are trying to convince us they have won the ideological war forever, but the fellow who admitted on television that he voted 79 times tells me different. Barack Obama having said he’s backing off his timetable to get U.S. troops out of Iraq tells me different, too.
    And, four years ago, I asked a state senator this question when he became the first black elected to his post: “How does it feel to be the first African-American elected senator in your district?”
    He just about bit my head off and called me a racist.
    I think that means first black whatever is a moot point now, or even an insult.

  11. Birchibald T. Barlow

    Rich – you say this is not a center-right country. Then you go on to write only about “social conservative” issues. Would you agree that we are a center-right country economically speaking? I think it’s fair to say we are to the right of most countries, including most of Europe.
    I’d be more willing to agree with you on the social/cultural issues. But to play devil’s advocate, if we are not center-right then why would a law like Prop 8 (unfortunately) pass in one of our MORE LIBERAL states? We aren’t exactly talking a conservative strong hold here. This is a state where Obama won by a margin of 24%. And you can’t blame it all on the Mormon Church. I can’t remember the last time I was considering a candidate or ballot measure and thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder what the Mormon Church has to say about this?”

  12. Brad Warthen

    Rich, I think what you’re saying is that left and right as they are popularly defined have some meaning, and that is something I utterly reject. And there’s no easier way to insult me than to assert that I have a place on that continuum. I refuse to be a part of it. I find the notion that we are on some train toward “progress” — either the kind that the left or the right embraces — and that those who aren’t on board are “left behind” is terribly narrow and limited. The notion that the nation is marching into some bright future with the left in the vanguard is as silly to me as the triumphalist notions held by the Reagan Revolutionaries a quarter-century ago. I find the Reds and the Blues (and isn’t it bizarre that we call the right “red?”) to be equally limited, contradictory and unheroic. I like Barack Obama for the fact that he is above and beyond that “blue-state-red-state” us-vs.-them nonsense. Obama would not dismiss another person by categorizing him, either as “red state” or “left behind” or anything of the kind. And that is a great virtue in him.
    It’s interesting to me that some who self-identify as “liberals” can condemn McCain for actually having tried to appeal to those who self-identify as “red-staters,” thereby belying his own “maverickness,” but not see that it’s just as great a sin to play to “blue-staters” to the exclusion of others. I find both sides appalling, and the things I like in both Obama and McCain is the extent to which they have at different times and in different ways risen above that garbage.
    In fact, I like to think that Obama won because he DID rise above it in the public mind, while McCain was dragged down by his ineffectual efforts to placate the “base,” which consists largely of people who hate him for not being one of them. He should have picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate and played to his natural constituency (independents) and let the “base” take a flying leap. He didn’t, and he lost.
    I don’t think it’s meaningful to speak of a “center-right” nation. But it is interesting to point out that Obama won despite the fact that more people who actually voted identified themselves as “conservative” than “liberal.” In fact, the proportions were basically the same as they were in 2004. Obama won NOT because he’s the vanguard of some mass movement to the left, but because he defied easy categorization, so self-identifying conservatives voted for him.

  13. bud

    Rich, I think what you’re saying is that left and right as they are popularly defined have some meaning, and that is something I utterly reject.
    Rich, you’ve hit a nerve here. I’ll defend Brad on this, he does reject the party labeling paradigm. Yet if you read enough of Brad’s writings he does have a clear and discernable philosophical base that he keeps coming back to. I happen to find it just as partisan as the most partisan Republicans or Democrats but its a philosophy that doesn’t fit in well with an established party. If it did it would be the party of Government Intervention in Everything. If there is a problem Brad has a government based solution for it. It’s sort of the mirror image of Libertarianism.
    I don’t criticize Brad for believing as he does. We’re all entitled to formulate our opinions. But where I can’t cut him any slack is when he criticizes those of us who happen to believe one of the major parties has the most appropriate philosophy to lead our nation forward. I consider it an insult to what I believe in to be branded a partisan simply because it is my opinion that the Democratic Party has the best solutions for our nation. As such I support the Democratic Party and generally vote for Democratic candidates. In that regard the folks who voted for McCain are out of touch with the direction this country needs to go. McCain represents the philosophy of the GOP, by and large. During this election cycle he was indistinguishable from the worst elements on the right.
    Obama on the other hand has shown himself to be a good Democrat who will lead our country out of the abyss created by the GOP over the last 8 years. It’s time to move forward to implement the policies of the Democrats. That is the best way forward. If that makes me a partisan then so be it, I’m a partisan.

  14. Capital A

    There is no right to privacy in those words, nor right to gay marriage, nor right to a chicken in every pot. No “realistic and increasingly compelling interpretation” of those words could produce such rights — within reason. No specific right is mentioned. In United States v. Sprague (1931), the Supreme Court noted that the amendment “added nothing to the [Constitution] as originally ratified.”
    posted by: p.m.s. | Nov 20, 2008 2:47:36 AM
    The US Consitution also does not allow for the concept of a “unitary executive” as eventually created by the imaginatively named Executive Order 13292. It also does not speak of the many expanded powers given (taken by)Darth Cheney to “unilaterally” declassify information.
    Nor does the Constitution advise that you shoot your friend while hunting and then deflect blame by having an aide call the president to say there had been an accident, all the while never explaining your own fault and leaving the subject of said injury open to ridicule and ironic blame from overzealous Fox News friendlies.
    However and by your estimation, I guess that makes Babybush and Darth Cheney liberals. Clearly, you’re drunk on the same appletini that Ele Ulmler has been drinking.

  15. p.m.

    Cap, my name is p.m., not p.m.s.
    When you’ve stopped foaming at the mouth with sticks and stones like Babybush and Darth Cheney, maybe we can talk.

  16. p.m.

    “Obama on the other hand has shown himself to be a good Democrat who will lead our country out of the abyss created by the GOP over the last 8 years.”
    Bud, why do the legislative lords for the last two years, Pelosi and Reid, get absolutely no credit from you for the descent into the abyss?

  17. Rich

    I use “left” and “right” in the classic political sense of these terms as derived from their original users in the National Convention of Revolutionary France. The right is the bourgeoisie–those with money, position, and traditional prerogatives to protect, as well as the “monarchists.” The latter today would correspond to the religious fundamentalists of any religious tradition who wish to impose their values upon society and for whom I have nothing but the deepest contempt (in case my prior posts do not make that clear).
    The left is clearly the other side of the aisle, opposed to the “monarchists” and the attempts of the bourgeoisie to hoard their privileges, money, and prerogatives regardless of whether or not this is detrimental to the revolution. The “revolution” is about liberté, égalité, and fraternité. That means an activist government pushing through a socially reconstuctivist program.
    It’s the same leftist approach philosophically that I apply toward education. Education as an institution must not exist simply to perpetuate the status quo of political and economic inequality, but rather should promote social justice actively through a curriculum that allows students to think critically, debate, form a variety of contradictory opinions, and then work these through with their peers in the free marketplace of ideas under the guidance of teachers who do not suppress difference or difference of opinion. Instead, teachers must model “multipartisanship,” inclusiveness, and respect for difference while suppressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other “-ism” that would involve the oppression of those who are different.
    Under this reading of the text of educational experience, conservatives have just as much right to be heard as anybody else, particularly since they are still a significant force in the culture and in politics. What must be made clear is that no one has the right, for instance, to proclaim a religious belief and then deny those who disagree the right to privacy.
    In our secular society, we vigorously suppress child abuse and are taking strong steps in S.C. to protect students in school from bullying. Our moral basis is the common core of accepted values found in our founding documents and subsequent law and scholarship built upon them. Dr. King may have been religiously inspired and used the soaring rhetoric of the Bible to great effect, but his thinking had a secular purpose and was solidly based in our political tradition.
    Values, including religious values, are inseparable from politics. But the judgments we make politically for the state must pass the Lemon Test: 1) have a secular purpose, 2) not advance basically religious programs nor detract from the free exercise of religion or irreligion by the citizenry, 3) not entangle the state with religious institutions and practices.
    Secularism ultimately protects the public square of the free marketplace of ideas and permits a full range of opinion from left to right.
    I am a man of the left with a strongly social democratic political philosophy in the Western European acceptation of that term. It would make no sense to exclude other views to the detriment of our democratic values. The left needs the right and vice versa. We should not rise above this; on the contrary, we should fully immerse ourselves in it!

  18. p.m.

    Translation: It’s OK for the left to use the Bible, but the right may not.
    The end justifies the means.
    The tail is wagging the dog.

  19. Lee Muller

    “Social justice” is a concept of rationalizing government as a tool for one group to forcibly rob wealth for those who produced it.
    The only solution for poverty is for the so-called “poor” to advance themselves by their own efforts. A lot of collectivist policies instituted by “progressives” have actually made most Americans less wealthy, and trapped many into a lifetime of wretched poverty.
    Rather than admit their mistakes and failures, each new generation of hide-bound leftists clings to false histories and thinks they are smarter – just let them take another trillion dollars and they will fix all the failed programs of the New Deal and Great Society.

  20. Bill C.

    When did Howard Sprague from Mayberry RFD turn black? That’s who this guy looks like… probably has a crush on a waitress named Millie too.
    So much for the Obama “change” that he promised, it was reported yesterday that his staff and administration so far has more Washington insiders than any previous present day president. Lobbyists, spouses of lobbyists, “advisers” who were also large dollar contributors, etc. “Change” to Obama means “More of the same”.

  21. Lee Muller

    Only ignorant suckers believed that Obama stood for any good kind of change.
    Obama’s campaign was run by Democrat insider David Axelrod and former Clinton staffers Harold Ickes, Paul Begala and Greg Craig, with fundraising by a team of 30 lobbyists from K Street.
    The only major change will be the racist tone. The Democratic Convention, not shown on TV was totally segregated, with blacks seating in front of Obama’s podium, and whites in front of Hillary’s podium. The inauguration will be like a Martin Luther King speech to Woodstock and Jonestown.

  22. Lee Muller

    If “Race Doesn’t Matter” to Obama supporters, why do they chant it, and constantly talk about his skin color?
    Recent polls of Obama supporters show that race was a very big reason they voted for him. 63% of them did not even know his platform.

  23. Joe

    Lee Muller is dead on correct, and these endless pontificating ponderous adolescent latte-istas do take the cake for arrogantitus.
    Sophists A-holes, unite and take note:
    Political and social reality has never been about skin color, it is always the imported african race, the euroid versus the afroid, and can the negro, even self identified white genes blessed and white culturally raised,like obama, be more than tribal in power, and be american, not malcolm x vindictive negro one drop agitators.
    The obamaoid had the chance to merge the negro into America, the great white euoroid abstract rights initiator social system.
    Hopefully, the presidential tasks will make the man and the times will bring out the best for America.

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