Will the Marc Rich Pardon Hinder Eric Holder's Confirmation?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008; Page A17

The Post asked former administration officials whether the pardon of Marc Rich will be an obstacle to Eric Holder's nomination as attorney general.


Served in the Justice Department and White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP

The suggestion that Eric Holder is not qualified to serve as attorney general because of his involvement in President Bill Clinton's pardon of financier Marc Rich is wrongheaded. As deputy attorney general, Holder did his job, which was to assist the president in exercising the pardon power vested in the president by the Constitution. While Marc Rich's pardon was distasteful, it was squarely within Clinton's constitutional powers. Any blame for pardoning Rich must rest with Clinton alone. Every attorney general must be prepared to stand up to a president who proposes to break the law, but it is not the attorney general's role to hinder a president's exercise of his plenary powers as chief executive.

It is time to end the Washington "gotcha" games, especially the one in which the lawyers get blamed for the policy sins of their superiors. Bill Clinton's mistakes should not be exploited to sabotage Barack Obama's administration. I expect to disagree with Holder on many issues. He is, however, an honorable man with superb legal and managerial credentials, and Barack Obama, as any president, is entitled to wide latitude in assembling his team.


White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; group chairman of BGR Holding

The Marc Rich pardon will be an irritant for Eric Holder but not a crisis for his nomination. Just about everyone who crossed paths with the Clinton presidency will have a pebble in their shoe as they run to get on board with the Obama administration.

Under the Constitution, the president's authority to pardon is unlimited. There was no deceit or malfeasance by Holder. Everyone knows this was Bill Clinton's initiative. Eric Holder is innocent. In Washington, of course, being innocent is an advantage; being guilty is only a disadvantage. Neither is determinative. But in this case, the Rich pardon is no bar to Eric Holder being an effective attorney general -- even though we Republicans and some in the media will enjoy rehashing it.

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