Is Loretta Lynch the Objective Attorney General We Need?

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

With the upcoming departure of current Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama has chosen his nominee for the position: Loretta Lynch, currently the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern district. Lynch faced the first day of her congressional hearing this week on Tuesday, sitting through hours of comments and questions. In her opening statement, she briefly outlined her plans and intentions, stating that she would “continue to build upon the department’s record of vigorously prosecuting those who prey on those most in need of our protection,” namely child exploitation, sexual trafficking, and other victimized groups.

She made mention indirectly of Holder and Obama’s efforts in the wake of law enforcement protests in Ferguson and across the nation. “Few things have pained me more than the recent reports of tension and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” said Lynch. She also mentioned two hot topics for Republicans in Washington: Cyber security and “fostering a new and improved relationship with this committee, the United States Senate, and the entire United States Congress,” emphasizing a “relationship based on mutual respect and constitutional balance (emphasis added).” Those words, along with the rest of her careful statements during her time before the Senate, prove that she is indeed the Attorney General we need at this time.

Attorney General Holder had many strengths, and did significant, necessary work that helped improve equality and justice in the United States, in particular on issues of race and sexual orientation. However, given the partisan polarization in Washington at this time, a more objective candidate would perhaps help political workings across both parties, and increase bipartisan influence. Lynch does seem to be capable of playing that role.Given the often listed political concerns of members of Congress regarding what they consider constitutional oversteps by President Obama, her emphasis in her opening statement on the constitution was undoubtedly intentional. It reveals what seems to be an established ability to appeal to both sides of the aisle, something brought up by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz.

She has a 30-year career distinguishing herself as tough, fair, independent; and twice headed the most prominent U.S. attorney’s office in the country — twice being confirmed with bipartisan support by the United States Senate,” said Schultz. “But don’t take my word for it. This might be the first and only time we cite Bill O’Reilly from the podium. But just a few days ago, he called her a hero and happy that she’s the new Attorney General.” But, that doesn’t mean certain replies to questions put to Lynch didn’t diverge from what conservatives were hoping to hear — an equally important ability.

Immigration

“Do you believe that the president has a legal authority to unilateral deportations in a blanket manner for millions of individuals in the country illegally and grant them permits and other benefits regardless of what the U.S. constitution or immigration laws say?” asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

In so many words, Lynch indicated her support of the “legal framework” that was depended upon to enact this executive action. She said she “found it interesting” that some proposals were found not to have dependable legal framework by the Office of Legal Counsel, and that she doesn’t “believe that those were actually implemented.” In other words, she found the system to be filtering out legally weak actions, however action on immigration wasn’t one of these, given the way the administration and homeland security had approached the issue legally.

Impartiality of Lynch

A good deal of her time in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee was spent insisting upon, and carefully demonstrating, her ability to be the impartial Attorney General that so many frustrated Republicans believe Eric Holder was not. She fielded questions on the IRS scandal and Obama’s insistance that conservative groups were not intentionally unfairly treated. Her tactic was akin to a “no comment,” insisting she was not briefed or familiar with matters enough to properly give an opinion.

A number of times Eric Holder directly came up as a comparison. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), for example, asked “If you’re confirmed will you commit to defend the laws in the Constitution of the United States regardless of your personal and philosophical views?”

When Lynch responded, “Absolutely, Sir.”

He quickly shot back, “I’m glad you said that. Attorney General Holder answered that same question in the same way.” He went on to criticize Holder’s actions against the Defense of Marriage Act, insisting it was constitutional. A great deal of the questions faced by Lynch were in this same vein; focused on past decisions or past practice, reflecting on policy from Holder or Obama.

Even so, Lynch performed admirably, at one point saying “You’ve asked how I will be different from Eric Holder. I will be Loretta Lynch.”

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