It’s been a busy couple of days for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
On Wednesday, the nation’s top law enforcement officer — who doubles as the leading impediment to law enforcement, whenever he sees a law he doesn’t like — flew to St. Louis for another exercise in the selective dispensation of justice.
Holder came to express sympathy with the protesters chanting “no justice, no peace” in Ferguson, one of the city’s close-in suburbs, where an 18-year-old black youth, described by friends and family as a “gentle giant,” on his way to visit his grandmother, had been shot and killed by a white police officer — touching off almost two weeks of nightly riots and looting in the town of about 20,000 people. At a community meeting Holder told residents:
I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man. I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike… and accused of speeding. Pulled over… “Let me search your car”… Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.
He flattered the self-esteem of the most violent protesters (for to the worst of them belongs the credit for attracting extraordinary media and political attention) in observing that they had brought Ferguson before the dock of national and world attention. Said he:
The eyes of the nation and the world are watching Ferguson right now. The world is watching because the issues raised by the shooting of Michael Brown predate this incident. This is something that has history to it, and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.
History also simmers beneath the surface of Holder’s rhetoric — a history of self-pity and grievance against his own country (“a nation of cowards,” as he famously put it in his first speech after taking office). He is always accusing his critics and political opponents of racism and bigotry. It’s a habit he can’t break.
Despite achieving high office — and having a black man as his boss in the highest office — Holder still believes in racism with all his heart. He doesn’t mind if remarks like those quoted here are highly prejudicial to the Ferguson police department and Darren Wilson, the white police officer accused (whether fairly or falsely is yet to be determined) of shooting a man who allegedly had his hands raised in the act of surrender. The case is now before a grand jury in St. Louis County.
But Holder is hardly alone in clinging to the view that racism is the source of many if not all of the worst problems affecting American society today. That has become the automatic default position for most of those subscribing to the progressive philosophy. They don’t want to move on from condemning racism and ostensibly fighting it (in such acts of piety as expressing their solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson) because all of their other policy prescriptions have failed.
More than other groups, it is the black community in places like Ferguson that has borne the brunt of those policy failures — through their captivity in failing schools in high-crime neighborhoods and through the inability of more than a third of younger blacks to find jobs upon leaving school.
Those are the real problems and they have little to do with racism or discrimination.
Back in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Holder announced that he will pick $17 billion out of the pocket of Bank of America shareholders to settle the government’s accusations that the bank sold flawed mortgage securities in the run up to the 2008 financial meltdown. He congratulated himself on setting a new record for this kind of thing — topping the $13 billion settle with JPMorgan Chase in November 2013:
Bank of America has acknowledged that, in the years leading up to the financial crisis that devastated our economy in 2008, it, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide sold billions of dollars of RMBS (residential mortgage-backed securities) backed by toxic loans whose quality and level of risk they knowingly misrepresented to investors and the U.S. government.
But this is another example of disregard for the facts and selective administration of justice by the head of the U.S. Justice Department.
The housing bubble which led the financial crisis came about as a direct result of government action in trying to make home ownership “more affordable” through “creative financing.” Through a variety of mechanisms the federal government in succeeding Democratic and Republican administrations pressured banks to lower their lending standards and make money available on the easiest of terms to people with no credit or work histories. As Fortune magazine summed up in a 2009 cover story, the fact that lenders were “hawking outlandishly risky mortgages to people who were terrible credit risks was no secret: It was bipartisan national policy.”
But that is not a story that the attorney general or the president wants to tell. They will stick to the narrative that allows them to deflect blame on others — and to go on acting as if they are champions of poor and downtrodden.