Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder's Legacy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted Oct. 1, 2014

MP3 Interview with Heidi Boghosian, former executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, conducted by Scott Harris


In a surprising shake up within the Obama administration, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Sept. 25 that he will resign his post as soon as a successor can be nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Holder, the first African-American attorney general in U.S. history, has been a lightning rod for Republican party criticism on many issues, including the government’s handling of the "fast and furious" gun-trafficking sting operation. This resulted in Holder being the first attorney general held in contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.

While conservatives and GOP politicians will be happy to see Holder leave government, many progressive activists have a mixed view of his record. On issues such as defending what was left of the Voting Rights Act – gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, opening the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage, challenging mandatory minimum drug sentencing and confronting police abuse and racial profiling in communities of color, Holder has been widely praised as an attorney general like no other. But on issues such as dragnet warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, drone attacks targeting Americans abroad and aggressive prosecution of government whistleblower and harassment of journalists, Eric Holder is viewed by many on the left as having institutionalized many of the repressive policies and executive powers first invoked by President George W. Bush.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, who formerly led the National Lawyers Guild. Here, she assesses the legacy of outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Heidi Boghosian is author of the book, “Spying on Democracy.” For more information on the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, visit ajmuste.org.

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