James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2010
Eric Holder is turning into the Joe Biden of the Obama administration. When the attorney general shows up on Capitol Hill, you never know what crazy thing will come out of his mouth. Yesterday he testified at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing and produced a memorable addition to his blooper reel.
As the Washington Times reports, just this Sunday Holder had strongly criticized Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law:
Mr. Holder told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Arizona law “has the possibility of leading to racial profiling.” He had earlier called the law’s passage “unfortunate,” and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.
Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, asked Holder to elaborate. FoxNews.com has the transcript:
Poe: So Arizona, since the federal government fails to secure the border, desperately passed laws to protect its own people. The law is supported by 70% of the people in Arizona, 60% of all Americans and 50% of all Hispanics [see note below], according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll done just this week. And I understand that you may file a lawsuit against the law. It seems to me the administration ought to be enforcing border security and immigration laws and not challenge them and that the administration is on the wrong side of the American people. Have you read the Arizona law?
Holder: I have not had a chance to–I’ve glanced at it. I have not read it.
Poe: It’s 10 pages. It’s a lot shorter than the health care bill, which was 2,000 pages long. I’ll give you my copy of it, if you would like to–to have a copy.
Even though you haven’t read the law, do you have an opinion as to whether it’s constitutional?
Holder: I have not really–I have not been briefed yet. We, as I said, have had under way a review of the law. I have not been briefed by the people who have been responsible–who are responsible for that review. . . .
Poe: You have some concerns about the statute. And it’s–it’s hard for me to understand how you would have concerns about something being unconstitutional if you hadn’t even read the law.
It seems like you wouldn’t make a judgment about whether it violates civil rights statutes, whether it violates federal preemption concepts if you haven’t read the law. So can you help me out there a little bit, how you can make a judgment call on–on that, but you haven’t read the law and determined whether it’s constitutional or not?
Holder: Well, what I’ve said is that I’ve not made up my mind. I’ve only made–made the comments that I’ve made on the basis of things that I’ve been able to glean by reading newspaper accounts, obviously, television, talking to people who are on the review panel, on the review team looking at the law.
We should note that Poe misstates one finding of the WSJ/NBC poll: It found that only 27% of Hispanics support the Arizona law (15% strongly, 12% somewhat). Seventy percent oppose it, including 58% strongly. We should also acknowledge that we haven’t read the law either, have not formed any opinion about its constitutionality, and are ambivalent about it as a matter of policy and politics.