While devoting all of Sunday's Face the Nation to an interview with Attorney General Eric Holder, CBS host Bob Schieffer failed to ask a single question about the Obama Justice Department dropping a voter intimidation case against the Black Panthers or allegations that the department has adopted a policy of ignoring such cases.
Schieffer discussed a range of topics with Holder, from the federal lawsuit against Arizona's immigration law, to a potential criminal investigation into BP, to the trial of terrorist Khalid Shaik Muhammed and closing Guantanamo Bay. At the end of the interview, Schieffer even asked about Holder's infamous comment that the United States was a "nation of cowards" when it came to discussing race.
However, the Face the Nation host failed to use that comment as a transition to the Black Panthers case, despite the fact that former DOJ attorney Christian Adams recently testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, accusing the department of adopting a policy of refusing to pursue voter intimidation cases that involved black defendants and white victims.
On Holder's "nation of cowards" comment, Schieffer asked: "A lot of people criticized you for that. A lot of people applauded you for saying that. Are you sorry now that you said that or what exactly did you mean by that and how do you feel today after some time has passed?" Holder responded: "I was trying to say in that speech is that we should be honest with one another...we ought to have the strength of character to say that which we really feel....To just have an open, honest dialogue about something that I think for too long we have not been willing to discuss." Schieffer wondered: "Do you see any sign that we are doing better on that?" Holder remarked: "I think the fact that we have an African American as president, perhaps an African American as an attorney general, is a spur in that regard."
Here is transcript of the July 11 exchange between Schieffer and Holder on that topic:
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, early on in the administration, you created quite a stir when you said in a speech that we've become a 'nation of cowards' because we weren't talking enough about race. A lot of people criticized you for that. A lot of people applauded you for saying that. Are you sorry now that you said that or what exactly did you mean by that and how do you feel today after some time has passed?
ERIC HOLDER: You know, I think that this is – ours is a great nation, but one of the great things that we have always tried to – we've always wrestled with, from the inception of this nation, is the question of race. If one looks at the history of this country in the 19th century, race was, I think, the dominant issue. Look at the history of this country in the 20th century, race was one of the dominant issues. It remains an issue that, I think, still divides us. And if you look at the demographic changes this nation is about to undergo, we have to have, I believe, an open and honest discussion about race, ethnicity, the diversity that we are about to see, an unprecedented diversity in this country, can be a great source of strength for this nation, but if not dealt with appropriately, can also be something that is very divisive.
And what I was trying to say in that speech is that we should be honest with one another and not feel that we have to retreat into our cocoons and only say that which we consider to be safe, that we ought to have the strength of character to say that which we really feel and people who are receiving it should understand that those things are said in good faith. To just have an open, honest dialogue about something that I think for too long we have not been willing to discuss.
SCHIEFFER: Do you see any sign that we are doing better on that?
HOLDER: Well, slightly. I think certainly that speech that I gave generated some conversation. I'm not sure I heard all the applause that you were talking about with regard to those remarks. I think perhaps we are getting to a place where – a better place. I think the fact that we have an African American as president, perhaps an African American as an attorney general, is a spur in that regard. But I think there's still a lack of desire. And understandable, I think, in some ways. People feel uncomfortable talking about racial issues out of fear that if they express things, they will be characterized in a way that's not fair. I think that there is still a need for a dialogue about things racial that we've not engaged in.
SCHIEFFER: Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being with us in Aspen.
HOLDER: Thank you.