Two days after President Barack Obama won re-election, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in remarks today in Baltimore he will assess whether he wants to continue his service at the helm of the U.S. Justice Department.
Holder spoke about his plans for a few minutes in a wide-ranging discussion today at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The dean, Ronald Weich, a former top DOJ official in Holder's administration, bluntly asked Holder during a question-and-answer session this afternoon: "What's your plan?"
"That's something that I'm in the process now of trying to determine," Holder said. "I will have to think about—can I contribute in a second term?" He said he would talk with his family and the president. He did not outright say he wants to remain on board.
Holder said he would "really ask myself the question about, 'Do I think that there are things that I still want to do. Do I have gas left in the tank?' It's been an interesting and tough four years. I just really don't know. I don’t know at this point." (A link to video of Holder's remarks is here.)
Holder called former Attorney General Janet Reno the Lou Gehrig of attorneys general, a reference to the baseball great who played 2,130 consecutive games. Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., known as the "Iron Man" of baseball, later broke that record.
"I do not want to be the Cal Ripken," Holder said today at the law school, drawing laughter. Holder called Ripken a "wonderful guy," adding: "I'd like to see him do eight years as attorney general. I can play 1,300 games."
Holder said he's proud of the work he's done at Main Justice, calling the revitalization of the Civil Rights Division one of the hallmarks of his administration. "I think in many ways the Civil Rights Division is the conscience of the Justice Department," he said. "You can really assess how good a Justice Department is by how effective its Civil Rights Division is."
The discussion between Holder and Weich, a former assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ legislative affairs office, followed a speech from Holder in which he referenced the election by calling the week "historic."
"Despite the divisions we may have felt in recent months, and the fierceness with which this year’s campaigns were contested, I am convinced that that the American people will come together, as they always have in times of difficulty, to advance the aspirations, and to honor the values, we share," Holder said in prepared remarks.
Holder also said "starting this week, we face a uniquely democratic moment of both healing and renewal" as elected officials are called on "to meet common challenges with shared resolve."
Holder took over the leadership of the Justice Department in early 2009 after leaving his partnership at the law firm Covington & Burling. Under Reno, Holder served as the deputy attorney general.
Lawyers who speculate on possible attorney general picks have mentioned, among other names, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.