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Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Our wrong-headed politics

Holder should not be held responsible for the reaction to his decisions, and he certainly should not be held PRIMARILY responsible.

The problem is that the Justice Department has been totally politicized in recent years, and so much of the public, and indeed, many of the pundits, expect that the decisions should be based significantly on political grounds. That is simply wrong! Unfortunately, simply stating that the politicization is wrong, and that henceforeth we are going to be act differently is not sufficient.

A lengthy educational process, starting at the top of the government, is needed. We need a Supreme Court that is depoliticized (not Bush v. Gore), a Congress that understand the difference between self-interest and the public interest (not people who sponsor legislation and then vote against it), and an executive that helps the public understand what it means to have a nation of laws.

I am sure that President Obama understands all of this, but many of the forces surrounding him--on his staff, in the press--operate against his making these issues central to his administration.

In recent months, there are only two things that President Obama has said that have really resonated with me. First, with respect to the mess in Washington, which he did not create, he called on the opposition to "get a mop" and help clean up the mess. Second, he said he would rather be a good one-term president, who tried to do the right thing, rather than a mediocre pandering two term president.

I think Obama's best chance of being re-elected is to show his deep convictions, which he is willing to go to the mat for, even if he loses. And I don't think it is Eric Holder's job to be the educator or the compromiser. It is his job -- along with his colleagues -- to implement the law as faithfully as he can.

By Howard Gardner

 |  February 16, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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To suggest that the Justice Department, and US law for that matter, is just now becoming politicized is laughable. They're both part of the corporate scheme of things. You see, the wealthy prop up the politicians, the politicians make laws that make their masters happy, and then the JD finds the little law holes that the politicians left, so that the JD can give a thumbs up to whatever the rich guys want to do. It's not a complicated system. You just feed it more money and threaten it with violence to keep it running.

Posted by: halifar59 | February 17, 2010 6:57 AM
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Holder's department dismissed the Black Panther case without explanation. That was blatant politics. If Ashcroft had done that, there would have been investigations. Will someone please hold this guy accountable? He's certainly not helping Obama.

Posted by: Arlingtonguy | February 16, 2010 9:01 PM
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I think the author here ignores the fact that Obama put his campaign executives in his cabinet, notably, Eric Holder in the Justice Department.

Posted by: redd1 | February 16, 2010 7:56 PM
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Well, once the AG is appointed, he/she is supposed to act independently of any elected official. The AG's job is to enforce the laws of the USA, no matter who, what, or where. It is not up to the President or anyone else to determine what the AG does. The AG can be impeached if it is determined that lawbreaking is ignored and not prosecuted.

In this respect, Holder should be impeached for not indicting Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Feith, and the rest of the torturers for crimes against humanity. They all broke, or aided and abetted, the breaking of the Geneva Convention, plus numerous other treaties and laws against the torture and abuse of prisoners and human beings.

It seems like none of our elected leaders understands the principles of democracy, from the White House on down to the most junior member of Congress. An outsider could easily come to the conclusion that the word democracy is a foreign word to the Congress. The entire Congress needs to forcibly be made to attend several semesters of civics, conflict resolution, and compromise classes. A course in hostage negotiation would probably help, also. In fact, we should amend our Constitution to require several courses in democracy, civics, negotiation, common courtesy, the Ten Commandments, and the rights of man, be completed within the last six months before a candidate can even through his hat in the ring.

Posted by: Chumbo | February 16, 2010 7:42 PM
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I think we should send Mr. Holder a dozen Chiquita bananas. I'm sure that's what he equates the cost of a dozen bananas to the lives of 4000 Columbian workers.

Posted by: msmart2u | February 16, 2010 5:36 PM
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I think we should send Mr. Holder a dozen Chiquita bananas. I'm sure that's what he equates the cost of a dozen bananas to the lives of 4000 Columbian workers.

Posted by: msmart2u | February 16, 2010 5:33 PM
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The very idea that the office of Attorney General has somehow been politicized and that this is unfortunate is incredibly naive. This office is in fact one of the most political of all the offices in the nation. The AG makes decisions loaded with political implications every day and it cannot be otherwise. The administration of justice at this level has profound implications for rights, duties, obligations and the use of the full authority of the government. JFK understood this and placed his brother in that office for exactly that reason. Ronald Reagan knew that we he appointed Ed Meese to that position. Only the politically naive, such as James Earl Carter, Jr. do not grasp that fundamental reality. Eric Holder is a bad choice precisely because he has poor political instincts.

Posted by: jweley | February 16, 2010 3:20 PM
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Holder could be hankering after his own legacy in making these "bold " decisions.

Posted by: improvista | February 16, 2010 3:15 PM
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Holder doesn't do or say anything without Obama's permission, therefor, it is a politized position.

Posted by: badgerburg | February 16, 2010 2:26 PM
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Uh, isn't the Attorney General appointed by the President? Well there you have it, it is a politicized position. What else is new.
Posted by: ajackson3 |

yeah but he's CONFIRMED by the Senate. The president doesn't get the final say...Its that messy "separation of powers" thing...

Posted by: demtse | February 16, 2010 1:20 PM
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Practically the entire Obama Administration has become dangerously politicized. First, the EPA has finalized a rule to implement the long-term renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons by 2022 established by Congress.

The Renewable Fuels Standard requires biofuels production to grow from last year's 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons in 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from advanced biofuels. The price of food will be doubling and tripling so we can pour corn into our gas tanks.

Secondly, the EPA has declared carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to be a threat to human health and the environment and is moving to write regulations to restrict emissions from vehicles, power plants and other major sources. The action could impose significant costs on the economy. Obama's Administration is a nightmare for our economy.

Posted by: alance | February 16, 2010 1:12 PM
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Uh, isn't the Attorney General appointed by the President? Well there you have it, it is a politicized position. What else is new.

Posted by: ajackson3 | February 16, 2010 12:50 PM
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