The Washington Post

Eric Holder: echoes of J. Edgar Hoover?

Eric Holder at a June 14 press conference in Dublin, Ireland (Handout/GETTY IMAGES)

Some might think heavy incoming from another flank might cause Holder to leave.

Maybe. But that’s not always the case in Washington when officials are criticized in the media. They can be loathe to leave while under attack.

For example, back in late 1964, President Johnson wanted to oust J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first and only director since it was founded in 1935. This came after years of criticism from liberals and others over Hoover’s harassment of civil rights leaders and other activists — among other things.

Johnson apparently wanted to keep things quiet until he could name a successor, which would make it virtually impossible for Hoover to stay.

Former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, then at Newsweek, broke a story in November, 1964 that Johnson was looking for replacements for Hoover. The story was said to have caused Hoover to dig in and derailed the effort, forcing Johnson to keep Hoover on. Hoover ran the bureau until his death — eight years later.

(See also: Nixon, R.M: “I am not a quitter.”)

In Holder’s case, we had written before the 2012 election that there had been talk that Holder might be leaving soon after the inauguration (assuming Obama won), or perhaps more likely in the summer or in the fall of 2013.

Holder didn’t want to leave last winter, we had heard, because some might think Hill GOP critics — especially Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — had driven him out.

While we had heard his wife wanted him to move on, it was said that President Obama wanted him to stick around and Holder himself was undecided.

At the time — and more recently as well — Holder’s associates said he really wanted to stay until the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which would be July 2014.

If the criticism mounts, that might be a stretch.

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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