This week, Eric Holder became the first Attorney-General in US history to be cited for contempt by a House Committee. I do not want to discuss whether this is justified—at least not in this post—but I do want to consider what the best thing for Obama to do in the context of this current campaign is.
No doubt there are some that think the House vote could cause a general perception of the Obama administration as scandal-plagued. This would certainly not be good in an election year. So now might be the time to ask for Eric Holder’s resignation or fire him.
But I’m convinced that would be the wrong move. The best thing for Obama to do would be to defend Holder enthusiastically and proclaim his full confidence in him. There is an unavoidable racial dynamic here. White Republicans are seen in some quarters of the African-American community as unfairly picking on the first black attorney-general. Obama could win himself some plaudits by standing up for Holder. You might be thinking that Obama already has a lock on the black vote, which he does. But by issuing a strong defense of Holder he might get more turnout and encourage other blacks to donate money or volunteer their time.
In addition, Obama’s campaign could paint sticking by Holder as a principled move by a principled politician and draw a not so subtle contrast with Romney who has changed positions on many issues. This could reinforce his likeability factor and his standing among centrist and independent voters.
Now of course, many staunch, ideologically committed Republicans despise holder for a variety of reasons. But these people will already vote for Romney any way because of Obama’s stands on other issues. And they already enthusiastically oppose the President.
In short, Obama has nothing to lose, and potentially something to gain politically by defending Holder.