Suddenly, Attorney General Eric Holder isn’t looking so vulnerable anymore. (Mark Wilson/GETTY IMAGES)

Attorney General Eric Holder looked to be a short-timer last spring.

The GOP was relentless with its attacks. There was Operation Fast and Furious — a disastrous gunrunning investigation in Arizona. There was condemnation that Holder had backed off a voting rights prosecution involving the New Black Panther Party. And there was 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 they didn’t include President Obama.

But things seem to have changed of late. Holder is becoming venerable instead of vulnerable. The uproars — faux and real — have faded. He hasn’t testified before a House committee since May, and nothing is 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 Sebelius 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 crowding), reining in National Security Agency spying, working on voting rights and so on. He also seems to be enjoying his travel to places such as 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 Smart Politics blog, and the top cop could soon have the third-longest tenure of the nation’s 82 attorneys general. Holder would pass Charles Lee, attorney general under George Washington and John Adams, on April 29, and he’d overtake Homer Cummings, AG to FDR, on Dec. 5.

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

Surpassing the legendary William Wirt, who served more than 11 years (from 1817 to 1829) in the James Monroe and John 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. attorney’s 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.)

A Hatch escape

Former U.S. comptroller general David Walker is looking at a run for lieutenant governor of Connecticut as a Republican — after many years as an independent.

Walker headed the Government Accountability Office in the Clinton era and then the Bush administration’s, and more recently ran the defunct Comeback America Initiative — warning about debt, spending and fiscal doom.

He’s looked at running for office before, too. In 2011, he was reported to be considering running as a Republican for Joe Lieberman’s old Senate seat in Connecticut. Sources said then that a bid was likely. But he decided against it.

He recently sent an e-mail announcing his “exploratory” operation, a.k.a. water-testing. There was also a link to his Web site, where he explains “it’s time for the people of Connecticut to be told the hard truth” about their fiscal plight.

So, he says, “I am exploring a run for Lt. Governor and respectfully request your help to make a comeback in Connecticut a reality.” And there’s a Web link to contribute to his exploration.

The usual mailing, except that several hundred e-mails went to Government Accountability Office employees, who, under federal law (the Hatch Act), “may not engage in political activity . . . while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building” and “may not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that advocates for or again a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”


“We notified Dave Walker and his campaign right away, and they took steps to make sure it would not happen again,” GAO spokesman Chuck Young told us. “We also reminded our employees of their responsibilities under the Hatch Act.”

Adventure travel

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), is leading a congressional delegation (codel) going around the world in six days!

Problem is, he’s flying commercial (though upgrades may be allowed for really long flights) and going only with one House oversight committee staffer and a military escort.

An even bigger problem is that he’s going to London — in February — and to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, which looks to be a place to avoid pretty much any time of year, but especially during the rainy season.

The purpose of the trip, we’re told, is to talk with officials in London and Port Moresby about security considerations for the embassy facilities under construction there. In London, where he’ll be for all of six hours, the concern would be terrorism.

The security problem in Papua New Guinea, however, includes “high levels of serious crime,” the Australian government advises travelers. “Ethnic disputes continue to flare up,” the Aussies advise, and “disputes can quickly escalate into violent clashes” and “an atmosphere of lawlessness.” Carjacking, meanwhile, “is an ever-present threat.”

Rainy season is from November to May, when “flooding and landslides have resulted in deaths.” There was also a “spate of killings” last year related to accusations of witchcraft, according to one report.

There’s also what looks to be a thrilling stop in Abu Dhabi to see how things are going with a new customs pre-inspection operation (so air travelers) can fill out customs and immigration forms before they get on board). There are stops in Australia, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, but only to change planes.

Next thing you know Chaffetz will be off to Somalia and East Timor. Sign up now!

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