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Correction to This Article
An item in this article incorrectly described the military service of W. Scott Gould, who was nominated by President Obama as deputy secretary of veterans affairs. Gould was a naval reservist who worked on intelligence for the war in Afghanistan; he did not serve in Iraq.

Is Eric Holder One of Those People Who Need People?

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By Al Kamen
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The political heavy hitters are coming out to support President Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. Barbra Streisand has written a fundraising plea soliciting donations to People for the American Way to "help them rebuke the partisan attacks on Eric Holder and ensure his speedy confirmation."

The songstress sought to rally liberals, writing: "I am fearful that this Republican opposition is really about pushing back on the Obama administration [duh!] and testing the waters for future judicial confirmation fights. . . . Disturbingly, a good man is caught in the middle of these partisan tactics, someone who will be an excellent Attorney General for all Americans."

Meanwhile, convicted former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (D) wrote, from his Gmail address, urging his supporters to call Sen. Arlen Specter's office and ask the Pennsylvania Republican to release his hold on Holder's confirmation.

"As you know, there is much work to be done by the next Attorney General in investigating the firing of the U.S. Attorneys and Karl Rove's involvement in my prosecution," Siegelman wrote. "The new Attorney General will be able to facilitate the House Judiciary Committee's investigation of the use of the Department of Justice as a political weapon and those who abused their power."

Drowning in Confidence

Loop favorite and former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales weighed in yesterday with advice for the new administration, telling NPR that he has "concern" over Attorney General-designate Holder's congressional testimony that waterboarding is torture. "I don't know what Mr. Holder did or didn't know in making that statement," Gonzales said. "And I think that one needs to be careful in making a blanket pronouncement like that, if you don't have all the information, because of the effect it may have, again, on the morale and the dedication of intelligence officials and lawyers throughout the administration."

He was asked whether he was "at all concerned that you will be prosecuted for your role in defending setting policies around these techniques."

"No," he said. "I'm not. Listen: I think only a fool wouldn't be worried about a prosecution motivated for political reasons. I don't see a criminal prosecution for me, nor for anyone that I'm aware of, because again . . . people acted in good faith."

Tell Me More, Tell Me More

With Obama winning soaring approval ratings around the world, foreign leaders can only hope to catch a little of his pixie dust, our colleague Glenn Kessler reports. After all, their own approval ratings are down somewhere around 50 percent, while Obama's are sky-high. So it only can help to show you are working closely with the world's most popular politician. (Bush's approval ratings overseas, by contrast, were most always lower than those of any local leader, so helping him could only hurt you.)

Case in point: the pro forma announcements of presidential phone calls. Obama called both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday, and the overseas accounts of those calls is far more laudatory and more detailed than such missives released during the Bush presidency, using words such as "hailed," "courageous," "warm," "friendly" and "trust." The effusive French news release noted the "warm conversation, which lasted half an hour," and the German release, which didn't have a precise length of the chat, noted that it was "in-depth."

Reid Is His Co-Pilot

Longtime Senate aide Robert T. Herbert, in his bid for the top job at the Federal Aviation Administration, appears to be making headway against a rival backed by Washington's labor establishment, our colleague Sholnn Freeman reports.

Herbert, who advises Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) on transportation, defense and homeland security issues, has been locked in a dogfight with Duane Woerth, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Within Washington aviation circles, both men are viewed as well-regarded aviators and qualified to run the agency. But neither, we're told, has set the Obama team on fire, so it remains a tossup.

Woerth was identified as the leading contender for the job early on, and he has the backing of the AFL-CIO. Herbert, however, has been pushing back. Reid has weighed in on his behalf, and Herbert met last week with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Herbert has been trying to soften union resistance, reaching out to the leadership of the many aviation-related labor unions. A top official at one union said that group had already sent "behind-the-scenes signals" that the union wouldn't get into a fight with the other unions over Woerth.


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