Why House Republicans and Eric Holder hate each other

We may not have learned much about the AP phone records case from Wednesday's House Oversight Committee as Attorney General Eric Holder repeatedly said he could not answer questions. One thing we did learn: House Republicans really, really, really don't like Eric Holder. And the feeling is mutual.

Eric Holder testifies before the House Oversight Committee. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan Smialowski)

Eric Holder testifies before the House Oversight Committee. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan Smialowski)

“I don’t, frankly, think I’ve always been treated with respect, and it’s not even a personal thing,” he said toward the end of the hearing. “That’s one thing. But I am the attorney general of the United States."

That was after a contentious exchange with Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who expressed disappointment in Holder's "lack of preparation" and interrupted his response with a "You're kidding me."

"The guy doesn't display courtesy, much less deference to Congress," said Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

Attorneys general are almost always contentious figures. Senate Democrats wanted a no-confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales; a House committee held Janet Reno in contempt; and Democrats pressured Edwin Meese to resign (successfully).

But Holder's relationship with House Republicans is particularly bad. He's the first AG held in contempt by the entire House, something Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) brought up as a sign that Holder didn't “have all that much credibility.”

Maybe it's because Holder makes no secret of his feelings toward the House GOP. He called the way Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) conducted himself "unacceptable" and "shameful." He told Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) that he did not know and "could not know" what he was talking about in regard to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Asked earlier this year about the contempt vote, he told ABC News, "For me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way. And I didn't, so it didn't have that huge an impact on me.”

That quote clearly got under Republicans' skin. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called it "shocking" in March. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) suggested Wednesday that Holder's attitude "may have led also to people in this administration thinking they can go after conservatives and conservative groups" -- a reference to the IRS scandal.

The very fact that Holder  still, well, holds his job is taken as an affront by many House GOPers. Republicans have made no secret of their desire to see Holder resign over the "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation that led to the contempt vote. Now some are demanding the same for the AP probe.

For Holder, just staying where he is might be the best revenge.

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