Assessing Eric Holder's Legacy Audie Cornish talks to NPR senior political correspondent Ron Elving about Attorney General Eric Holder's legacy of civil rights and its effect on communities of color.
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Assessing Eric Holder's Legacy

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Assessing Eric Holder's Legacy

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Assessing Eric Holder's Legacy

Assessing Eric Holder's Legacy

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Audie Cornish talks to NPR senior political correspondent Ron Elving about Attorney General Eric Holder's legacy of civil rights and its effect on communities of color.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on Eric Holder, we're joined by NPR senior political correspondent Ron Elving. And Ron, as we just heard Carrie mention the Attorney General going to Ferguson this past summer - and so many times in the press he's been called a proxy or being out front on the issue of race. So what does his departure mean for President Obama?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: It means that particularly on issue of race, the president has lost his heat shield. And presidents have used attorney generals and attorney generals have functioned back over the years as either a kind of sword for the White House or more often as some kind of shield for the White House. And when that hasn't worked, the relationship has been very bad indeed. And oftentimes, presidents have paid a high price. In this particular case, because he was the first African-American in this job and because the president is the first African-American president, he really had a specific kind of surrogacy that we probably will not see again.

CORNISH: Many on the left and certainly the right consider the attorney general in some ways a voice for some of the more progressive instincts of the administration. The response yesterday from Capitol Hill was essentially good riddance. Can you talk about how he tangled with Republicans?

ELVING: Well, the response from Republicans on Capitol Hill was certainly good riddance because on the House side, they actually went so far - of course, as Carrie reported - as to cite him for contempt of Congress. It's a very unusual thing. It's an unenforceable thing. But it's an enormous symbolic kind of blow. And it meant a lot to Eric Holder. So I think that they're going to look for somebody that they can really beat up in the confirmation process as we move forward.

CORNISH: Lastly, the issue that people are saying is sort of unfinished business - the lack of convictions of Wall Street executives after the mortgage crisis. How much is that going to play into his legacy?

ELVING: I think it's going to haunt him. I don't think there's any question that it's going to haunt him. You know, there's a question of convictions of executives. There's also a question of indictments of executives. And they just didn't choose to go there. They went after the companies. They went after the Wall Street firms. They went after big fines. But they didn't go after the individual people. And as a result, that sends a signal that there is a certain kind of - a certain kind of white-collar crime that people can just get away with.

CORNISH: That's NPR senior political correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you.

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