Since Eric Holder is neither pathetic, insulting, incoherent, nor downright stupid, I look for alternative causes and possible motivations behind Eric Holder's writing of a "pathetic, insulting, incoherent and downright stupid letter," as Andrew Sullivan describes it, to Sen. Rand Paul. And here is at least one possibility: Holder regards Paul as deserving of pathetic, insulting, incoherent and downright stupid letters.
This is, mind you, only a guess on my part, and in no way is it intended as a defense of the administration's essentially indefensible overseas drone policy with respect to American citizens. (I don't even support John Brennan's nomination to the CIA, not with his tortured record.) But with respect to Sen. Paul, I strongly suspect that the attorney general's letter drafter was told: Just write something up, anything at all, because nothing we say is ever going to satisfy him anyway, since incurable stuntmen and grandstanders and Obama-haters are quite literally paid by their base to remain uncured.
Think about it. What could Holder have written that would have impelled Paul to announce on the Senate floor yesterday, "Hold the presses! For President Obama and AG Holder have just this very moment satisfied my every whim and last speculative curiosity." Anything? Can you think of anything at all that would have entirely satisfied Sen. Paul and yet not opened the administration to even worse abuse? Should Holder have conceded that under no circumstances--even those involving massive loss of American lives on American territory--would the Obama administration ever conceive the use of drones strikes? Ever? Never? No way? Let the slaughter commence, but they ain't budging from this absolutist, and plainly insipid, position?
Holder could have written that, very easily. Indeed, it would have required even less thought than what he did write to Paul. But Holder didn't write that. He instead wrote rather honestly, if not dismissively, that there are no absolute guarantees in this world, no matter how fervently absolutists like Paul believe there are.
update: Sen. Paul is, after all, satisfied?
"It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?'" Holder [additionally writes]. "The answer to that question is no."
Says Paul: "I’m quite happy with the answer, and I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it. But we did get the answer. And that’s what I’ve been asking all along."
Good boy, Rand. You won, right?