Eric Holder: Staying for the long haul?

 Eric Holder on the set of
Eric Holder on the set of “Homeland” in Morrocco last November (Showtime)

Back in the spring, Attorney General Eric Holder looked to be a short-timer. Relentless GOP attacks over, among other things, Operation Fast and Furious — a disastrous gun-running investigation in Arizona —  for backing off on a voting-rights prosecution involving the New Black Panther Party, and for his decision to try a top terrorist in a Manhattan court instead of a military tribunal. The House held him in contempt.

Even Democrats were reported to be going negative over leak investigations and the department’s secret acquisition of phone logs for reporters. Some on the Hill and in the White House were said to be grumbling — though that didn’t include Obama.

But things seem to have changed of late. Holder’s becoming venerable instead of vulnerable. The uproars — faux and real —  have faded. He hasn’t testified before a House Committee since May, and nothing’s scheduled. Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and another top terrorist are quietly awaiting trial in New York.

Could be he’s also had a bit of luck, getting pushed out of the  Congressional Hot Seat by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius and the spectacular failure of the launch of Obamacare.

So Holder’s been focusing on his own priorities — reforming the criminal justice system (especially sentencing reform, and prison overcrowding, in particular), reining in NSA spying, working on voting rights and so on. He also seems to be enjoying his travel to places like New Zealand and Morocco — where he stopped by the set of Showtime’s “Homeland” and corralled terrorist-in-hiding Nick Brody, played by actor Damian Lewis. (Then again, Poland, where he is this week, is not the greatest place in February.)

On Monday he completed his fifth year as attorney general, Loop Fan Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota posted on his blog “Smart Politics,” and could soon have the third-longest tenure of the nation’s 82 attorneys general. Holder would pass George Washington and John Adams’s attorney general Charles Lee on April 29, and FDR’s AG Homer Cummings on Dec. 5.

If he were to stay until the end of the Obama administration, he would pass Clinton’s AG Janet Reno and be second on the all-time list.

Overtaking the legendary William Wirt, who served more than 11 years (from 1817 to 1829) in the Monroe and Quincy Adams administrations, seems impossible — unless for some bizarre reason Jeb asks him to stay.

One thing we’re pretty sure of: Holder’s not likely to leave before he reaches his goal of being the first attorney general to visit all of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys’ offices. He still has more than a dozen to go so he’s not going to reach that goal for a few months.

(Note:  Those who entered the Loop “When will Holder Resign?” contest in July and predicted he’d be gone in 2013 are out of the running, but some guessed 2014, and we recall one who said Holder would … go… all… the… way.)

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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Al Kamen | February 5