Jonah Goldberg

Last week, the president's lap dog blew his dog whistle.

In case you didn't know, in politics a "dog whistle" is coded language that has a superficial meaning for everybody, but also a special resonance for certain constituencies. Using dog whistles lets politicians deny they meant to say anything nasty, bigoted or controversial.

Speaking to the National Action Network the day after a testy but racially irrelevant exchange with Republican members of a House panel, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "The last five years have been defined ... by lasting reforms even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity." He continued: "If you don't believe that, you look at the way -- forget about me, forget about me. You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee. ... What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?"

Now, bear in mind the audience. The National Action Network is Al Sharpton's plaything, often providing the shock troops Sharpton needs for rent-a-mob protests, shakedown operations and MSNBC photo ops. Holder didn't say criticism of him and Obama is racially motivated, but the notion the audience (or the media) would take it any other way doesn't pass the laugh test.

Holder's hypocrisy is stunning given that he once famously chastised Americans as being "cowards" for not talking openly about race. Who's the coward now?

For the record, there's nothing special about the rough time Holder has received. Forget Harry Daugherty of Teapot Dome fame or John Mitchell, who went to prison. Ed Meese's critics had "Meese Is a Pig" posters printed up. Janet Reno and John Ashcroft never got cake and ice cream from opponents.

The best recent comparison is probably Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush's second attorney general, because like Holder, he was a fairly incompetent partisan loyalist with a thin skin. Gonzales was treated brutally by Democrats. Some even tried to impeach him. I don't recall Gonzales insinuating that such efforts were anti-Latino.

Holder has deserved all he's gotten. He earned his contempt of Congress citation by refusing to provide documents on the disastrous Fast and Furious operation that left an American dead from a gun the U.S. government put on the street. If anything, Holder deserves more grief, particularly from a media that seem to have forgotten his efforts to surveil journalists' phone records and name Fox News' James Rosen an unindicted co-conspirator in an espionage case.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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