In a political vacuum, the recent speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network would be mere routine partisan outreach in a competitive election year.
Not so this time.
Given Al Sharpton’s leading role in the ever-growing outcry over the tragic – and allegedly racially charged – shooting of Trayvon Martin, Eric Holder’s address to the activist organization must be called into question. It is, in fact, not without ramifications.
Many from the Congressional Black Caucus to community leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to 80 percent of black public opinion, hold that George Zimmerman shot Martin because of his race. Even President Barack Obama first commented on the shooting in racial overtones.
And in the midst of a federal investigation of Zimmerman by the U.S. Department of Justice for potential civil rights crimes, Attorney General Eric Holder should now appoint a special prosecutor.
Eric Holder close political relationship to Al Sharpton – and by default to Sharpton’s own activist organization – undermines the Department of Justice’s role in the case. Everyone involved in the investigation reports to Attorney General Holder – Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Bob O’Neill, and the FBI. As such, the pursuit of civil rights charges in this case could appear to be politically motivated or tainted.
This case represents no ordinary civil rights investigation. Very few ever reach the level of public awareness and politicization the Martin shooting has. In a case like this one, it is paramount that those in charge of the investigation and possible prosecution of the crimes are perceived as impartial and independent. Eric Holder has tainted that perception of neutrality.
The divide between those who have concluded this was a hate crime and those who are withholding judgment has been growing stronger by the day. One of the main architects of such a divide has been none other than Al Sharpton. The reverend civil rights leader has been relentless in calling not only for the arrest of George Zimmerman for murder – which has now happened, but also for prosecution of the crime as of one hate: a white man who haunted down a black teenager in a racist-filled rage.
Eric Holder should have carefully maintained a distance between his office and Al Sharpton and his civil rights activist organization. Rather, the attorney general opted for a photo op instead while delivering the Obama administration plea for help in promoting its agenda.
One must be rather naïve to believe that Al Sharpton would not seize on the opportunity to personally exert political pressure on EricHolder to push the Martin civil rights case forward.
Attorney General Holder, an African-American and the government official with direct oversight over the authorities investigating this case, must now place the public interest before partisan and political interests. He should appoint a special prosecutor.