Eric Holder And Panelists Gather To Praise Themselves And Edward Levi

The Daily Sophist

By Ben Zigterman

In what was perhaps the most boring Institute of Politics (IOP) event yet, various distinguished panelists, including Attorney General Eric Holder, joined together to praise themselves as well as former University President and Attorney General Edward Levi Tuesday evening at the Logan Center.

The event was off to a bad start when, five minutes after the it was supposed to start, a bunch of VIPs walked in with food from a private reception held beforehand. Also, two teleprompters loomed on stage right in front of the lectern.

Eventually, David Axelrod introduced the event, bobbing his head up and down at his notes instead of using the teleprompters. Then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke, bobbing his head side to side every three seconds, using only the teleprompters, while six bodyguards stood on and near the stage. In an incredibly bland speech, Holder alternated between praising Levi for having outstanding values and praising himself for upholding these values at the Department of Justice. On top of this, he made sure to include Obama Administration talking points by mentioning the Boston bombings, the recent attempt to pass gun control, the Newtown shootings, and even the sequestration, which has nothing to do with Edward Levi. He abruptly finished his speech and left the stage, and we all sat there waiting for about 30 seconds.

Finally, Dean of the Law School Michael Schill made his way to the stage and introduced the distinguished panelists. This was fine, except that about halfway through his spiel, all six of Holder’s bodyguards conspicuously walked out of the auditorium in unison, making it clear that Eric Holder was not interested in sticking around for the panel discussion. Not a good sign.

The three panelists were indeed quite distinguished: Geoffrey Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law and was the moderator of the panel discussion; John Ashcroft was the attorney general during George W. Bush’s first term; and Jack Fuller has more accomplishments than could be kept track of. Most importantly, Fuller wrote the book, Restoring Justice, that brought together this event.

The panel discussion may have been great; I honestly can’t say because I dozed off a few times. From what I remember, though, Fuller talked about how great Levi was and Ashcroft kept defending the Bush Administration’s actions and the Patriot Act as necessary in a time of war.

Next, it was question time, the worst part of any event. Unsurprisingly, someone asked John Ashcroft a pointed question about Guantanamo Bay and the hunger strike that has been in the news lately. Also unsurprisingly, Ashcroft defended Guantanamo Bay and argued that the government needs to be able to detain combatants captured in a battlefield. At this point, there was only time for one more question. While IOP staff were shooing away disgruntled questioners from the microphone, I missed the next question, but it had something to do with the “War on Terror.” Again, Ashcroft defended it and argued that it would be better to end the “War on Terror” too late rather than too soon.

Despite my grumbles, there were some nice moments at this event. Holder joked that “regardless of how [Axelrod] might look, he’s actually younger than me.” That was funny. Later, Geoffrey Stone told a nice story about Edward Levi. When Stone was offered the Dean of the Law School in 1987, he asked Levi, “What makes a great leader?” Levi answered that a great leader “radiates the values of the institution.” Also, John Ashcroft somewhat ironically praised Edward Levi for presenting his policies confidently, with honesty and transparency, to the American people.

But that was about it. Thankfully, Axelrod grabbed the microphone and brought this dreadful event to a close.