Over the course of four and a half years, no other member of President Obama's cabinet has been at the center of so many polarizing episodes or the target of so much criticism as has Attorney General Eric Holder, the New York Times reports. While the White House publicly backed Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately say they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit.
The latest attacks may stiffen the administration's resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics. His saving grace has been the friendship of two women close to Obama. Valerie Jarrett, the president's senior adviser, grew close to Holder during the 2008 campaign and, as one former Obama adviser put it, “was always his protector” inside the White House. Michelle Obama has become good friends with Holder's wife, Sharon Malone, and the two couples go out to dinner from time to time. The president is said to appreciate Holder's integrity and his positions during some of the big debates over antiterrorism policies and other volatile issues. The White House also points to his department's successful defense of the president's health care program before the Supreme Court and prosecutions in high-profile terrorism, financial crimes, and corporate wrongdoing cases.