It was nothing for Attorney General Eric Holder to tell ABC News that Sarah Palin “wasn’t a particularly good vice presidential candidate” and for him to suggest, in his own way, that she ought to read the Constitution before proposing that President Barack Obama be impeached—seeing as how there would be no legal basis for such an act. Lest we forget, Holder has been speaking his mind since he got the job, and lucky for us—that is, people who love it when politicians let loose and tell us what they’re really thinking—he won’t stop.
As attorney general, Eric Holder is America’s chief law-enforcement officer. And judging by this roundup of times that he has spoken candidly and uninhibitedly about hot-button topics and controversial issues, I think it’s safe to say that Holder is the type of counsel who will give it to you straight—no chaser.
1. That time he said most of the hate and vitriol that he and the president receive stems from racism.
Holder is not saying anything that black folk and liberals haven’t been saying among themselves for years in barbershops and hair salons, at the kitchen table and on MSNBC. Let’s face it: President Barack Obama could bring unemployment down to 3 percent, get the Dow to 20,000, make peace in the Middle East, solve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, find that Malaysian plane, have a caramel latte once a week with Rush Limbaugh, curse Al Sharpton’s name, and he would still be hated on by some individuals who can’t stand to see an African-American president in the White House.
During an interview with ABC, Holder basically articulated that there is nothing—I repeat, nothing—that the president could do to win over those people who can’t wrap their minds around there being a black president. These bigots hide behind their half-baked political arguments and trot out played-out talking points from the 1980s to mask their utter disgust of what Obama represents: an H-N-I-C.
2. That time he begged David Simon to bring back The Wire.
We knew that Obama’s presidency was going to be a truly special experience when he gushed about how much he loved The Wire—the critically acclaimed HBO show. We black people practically stomped our feet, cupped our mouths and mouthed “Yooooo!” when Obama said that Omar, the gay stickup bandit played by Michael K. Williams, was his favorite character.
But Holder one-upped his boss during a panel discussion when he pleaded for David Simon, the show’s creator and lead writer, to bring back the series for a sixth season. The attorney general, like the rest of the show’s cultlike following, knew how authentic the series was in communicating the complexities of inner-city life: There are no good or bad characters in the hood. Nearly everyone—the cops included—is shades of gray.
3. That time he told those Republicans who were hell-bent on perpetuating the Fast and Furious scandal to get a life.
It was a well-intentioned strategy of follow-the-gun-trail. Federal agencies looked the other way while American guns were being sold up the ladder to high-level drug-cartel leaders in Mexico. The plan was that U.S. law-enforcement officials would monitor the gun sales to eventually catch all of the big-time criminals wreaking havoc in and around the border.
That was until some of the guns were found at the murder site of a U.S. border-patrol agent. Somebody needed to take the fall for Operation Fast and Furious, and the GOP picked Eric Holder. He became the only Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. The attorney general didn’t take too kindly to what he perceived was election-year shucking and jiving by Republicans, and described the entire ordeal as “truly absurd conspiracy theories” that were “unnecessary and unwarranted.”
It’s his politically correct way of saying, “This is bulls—t.”
4. That time he said it doesn’t make sense for nonviolent drug offenders to serve out their lengthy prison sentences.
There is no sensible argument to be made as to why nonviolent drug offenders who received lengthy prison sentences back in the Reagan era should serve out their bloated sentences, when comparable offenders today are getting a fraction of their time. Holder said as much last August and introduced a series of policies that would allow several convicts to come before judges for their cases to be reviewed and their sentences reduced. He also put a needle through the war on drugs:
“As the so-called war on drugs enters its fifth decade, we need to ask whether it, and the approaches that comprise it, have been truly effective.”
5. That time he joked about Obama’s basketball skills.
No one trash-talks like a New Yorker. And so it’s no surprise that Holder found it preposterous that anyone would suggest that a guy from Hawaii, President Barack Obama, was better at basketball than a baller like himself, from the mean streets of Queens, N.Y.:
“He’s from Hawaii. I’m from New York. You figure out who has the better game.”
6. That time he said it was ludicrous that black people are incarcerated much more heavily than whites for similar offenses.
Keeping in line with his criminal-justice reform work, Holder also called foul on how black people are jailed much more aggressively than whites for similar crimes:
“We also must confront the reality that once they’re in that system, people of color often face harsher punishments than their peers. … Black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes,” he said in a speech to the American Bar Association.
“This isn’t just unacceptable—it is shameful.” Well said, Mr. Attorney General.
7. That time he explained how institutional racism is alive and well.
When the nation was making a fuss about Donald Sterling’s comments on that tape, Holder took the time to remind folks about the harsher travesties that affect black people, like the criminal-justice system and how it’s damn near carrying out the mission of the Jim Crow South: making black men and women disenfranchised and unemployable at greater rates than whites.
8. That time he was one of Obama’s most loyal Cabinet members.
They say when the party is all over and the dust settles, it’s who you still have in your corner that counts the most. And through all the pomp and circumstance and the ups and downs, Holder is one of only three members of Obama’s original Cabinet to still be serving in his administration.
Now, that’s ride or die.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features expert advice for TV and film's most complex characters. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.