When Holder reached home after a bruising Senate Judiciary Committee appearance last month, he says he wanted to "crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head."
"I'm done. Public life's over for me," Holder says. "I had a moment in time. That moment has passed."
The Rich episode has brought down upon Holder the kind of doubts that can haunt a person's career. He was asked at a congressional hearing whether his desire to become attorney general caused him to go easy on Rich, who was represented by well-connected former White House counsel and Al Gore adviser Jack Quinn. At the same hearing, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) told Holder he greatly respected him, but labeled his positions on Rich "almost incredible."
In political Washington, "neutral, leaning towards favorable" could become his epitaph. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) commented ruefully at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Holder may be an unintended casualty of the intense lobbying that accompanies the pardon process.
"A lot of well-meaning people get involved and they put on a lot of pressure," Feinstein said. "And a lot of other well-meaning people get involved in that -- I think Mr. Holder is one of them, for example -- and something like this can really ruin their entire career."
But as they say, time heals all wounds. The Rich pardon all seems like a very long ago, and Clinton's "scandals" all seem so quaint compared to what we've been regaled with during the Bush years. Hopefully Holder learned a lesson from his involvement in that pardon, and goes back to D.C. older and much wiser. Or at least so we should hope, since he has a big job in front of him cleaning up the DOJ.