Beg Your Pardon?

After eight years of mischief and misdeeds at justice, Eric Holder has his work cut out for him.

Several Democrats asked about the shocking inspector general’s report in which the anecdote about Tanner and Schlozman’s e-mail exchange appeared. Published on Tuesday, the report found, among other things, that Schlozman illegally politicized the Civil Rights Division’s hiring process and then lied to the Judiciary Committee about it. Schlozman hired 63 lawyers based on his assessment of whether they were what he called “real Americans.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington has concluded it won’t bring charges against Schlozman, and that fact has greatly annoyed the committee’s Democrats. Several of them demanded a review of the U.S. Attorney’s decision, and Holder vowed to provide one.

“I will review that determination,” he told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the first Democrat to ask about it. “Given the findings in the inspector general’s report,” he said, “I want to know why the determination was made not to pursue charges, criminal charges.”

The Democrats aren’t likely to see much political gain in long, messy prosecutions of the Bushies who abused the Constitution in the name of national security—people like Alberto Gonzalez and, yes, Dick Cheney. And while Holder was not willing to rule out such prosecutions, he was far more interested in promoting what is bound to be known as the Holder doctrine. “The president acts most forcefully and has his greatest power when he acts in a manner that is consistent with congressional intent,” he repeated again and again.

But Schlozman and his colleagues in the Civil Rights Division may face an entirely different calculus. Some of the Senate’s most powerful Democrats are enraged by the insult of Schlozman’s perjury. And Holder used some of his most emphatic rhetoric when talking about the mess Bush’s cronies have made of the division.

“What we have seen in that report I think is aberrant, but is also I think one of the major tasks the next attorney general is going to have to do. You have to reverse that,” Holder told Feinstein. Then later, to Sen. Chuck Schumer, “It is my intention to devote a huge amount of time to the Civil Rights Division and restoring” its “great traditions.”

One of those traditions is rooting out and holding accountable racist thugs who abuse power. Let’s hope that’s the first one Holder restores.

Kai Wright is a regular contributor to The Root.