February 3, 2009 4:05 PM
Holdermania: New AG Receives A Hearty Welcome
Eric H. Holder was sworn-in Tuesday as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States. He is the first African-American to lead the Justice Department, and surely the first A.G. to be treated as a bona fide rock star.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
When Holder arrived at the department for the ceremony, a throng of Justice Department employees greeted him with thunderous applause, many snapping away with cell phone cameras to capture the moment. He sprinted up five flights of stairs where an even larger crowd erupted into cheers when Holder said, "it is so good to be home." Holder served as Acting Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and United States Attorney in the Clinton administration.
Vice President Joseph Biden administered the oath of office while Holder's wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, held a family Bible. In his remarks, Biden went to the heart of what the Obama (and now Holder) Justice Department is promising: an agency free of politics and ideology following a long string of investigations that found extensive evidence of political interference by Justice appointees.
The morale-crushing scandals eventually led to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General and many top officials. But Holder promised that the department now faces "a new day," saying "there shall be no place for political favoritism, no reason to be timid in enforcing the laws that protect our rights."
Holder has enormous policy decisions ahead, and the clock is ticking. He will lead a task force with a one-year Executive Order deadline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and will oversee the reviews that are well-underway to craft policies on the detention and prosecution of terrorism suspects, whether by continuing military tribunals, moving them to civilian courts or a creating an entirely different court . After declaring during his confirmation hearings that waterboarding is torture, Holder must help decide what tactics interrogators can legally use against suspects.
After the swearing in, Holder went into attorney general-speak, saying he is already "drilling down" into the casework of the sprawling department. Then he headed to the White House for his first homeland security meeting.
Stephanie Lambidakis is CBS News' Justice Producer.