Eric Holder does not shy away from being called an activist – in fact, the U.S. Attorney General considers the label an honor.
“If you want to call me an activist attorney general, I will proudly accept that label,” Holder told journalist Juan Williams in an interview published at The Hill.
“Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job,” he continued, adding that “the responsibility of the attorney general is to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.”
Asked later about his response to critics who claim that the Justice Department houses an activist civil rights division and an activist chief, Holder said “I agree with you 1000 percent and [I am] proud of it.”
Holder also said he is troubled by the affirmative action stance of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who opposes the policy in maintaining that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
“There are still [racial] issues we as a society are working our way through,” Holder said. “And the lack of desire to do that, I think, undermines the ability that I think is inherent in the American people to make progress. But it also does not prepare us for demographic changes, the likes of which this country has never seen.”
Holder’s activism on racial issues is nothing new.
In a profile at Politico last month, he was described as President Obama’s “heat shield.” Sources close to Holder said he is able “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.”
His stance on race was on display early on in the Obama administration when Holder infamously claimed that the U.S. is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to racial issues. Those comments and Holder’s hesitation in investigating two Philadelphia New Black Panther Party members accused of voter intimidation outside of a precinct in Philadelphia in 2008 won him the ire of conservatives.
The interview did highlight some of Holder’s bi-partisan initiatives, including the year-old “Smart on Crime” program which focuses on reducing the prison population and prison costs. Republican senators such as Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are backing the project, which has made headway in the Senate Judiciary Committee.