Published in the January/February 2015 Meaning of Life issue
Last week, outgoing Attorney General Holder barred the civil seizure process that previously allowed police to seize property without warrants or criminal charges. In an interview given for our January/February he had this to say…
If you want to use the hockey metaphor, I didn’t come to this job to be a goalie. That’s obviously an important role. But I wanted to be Wayne Gretzky.
These jobs weigh on you in ways that I don’t think you necessarily understand. There is a pressure that you feel all the time. I stay up late, always trying to make sure that I’ve read everything that I’m supposed to read. I clearly have a sleep deficit over the last six years. I try to get to bed by one or two, and I wake up my son at six-thirty. I’m going to be leaving that to Sharon for about six months.
The thing I learned about the president came during the campaign. He’s a person who’s very calm under pressure. He’s a person who maintains equilibrium in the face of withering criticism, fair, unfair . He’s always centered and focused. But it’s one thing to be that way during the campaign. It’s a whole other thing to be that way as president.
I grew up in New York in the sixties and seventies, and I remember reading Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s autobiography. He said one of the things you always wanted to do was keep your cool. That was something to be valued.
I met Michael Brown’s father in Ferguson. Let me tell you, it was very painful to look upon the quiet dignity within that man. It’s difficult to even think about his loss.
You think about situations that you were in and that, but for good fortune, could’ve gone wrong. I’m the father of a seventeen-year-old who’s six feet four inches tall. A sweet kidgoofy at timesanything but threatening. But he wears sweatshirts with hoods on them to affect a cool look. And I worry about him.
At the same time, as the brother of a retired law-enforcement officer, I feel for the cops, and the split-second decisions that they have to make, and the dangers that they face on a day-to-day basis.
The reality is that the movements that have had the greatest and longest impact on our nation are the ones that have been conducted peacefully, whether it’s women marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and demanding the right to vote, or the people who sat at lunch counters and got pulled away from them and beaten, or the kids in Birmingham who stood up to fire hoses and attack dogs. All of that was seared into the consciousness of the nation and led to the kind of meaningful, lasting change that’s embodied in the ’64 Civil Rights Act and the ’65 Voting Rights Act.
You ask how much patience it’s going to take. All I can say is this goes back to Dr. King and the letter from the Birmingham jail. He talks about how people counsel patience, and he talked about how he was impatient and desired to resolve things. We’re well past the time where patience would be a virtue. It is time for us to act with dispatch.
Understand: The Godfather is the greatest motion picture that’s ever been made. Okay? I saw that movie five times in the theaters.
When Michael Corleone is talking to Vito shortly before his father dies, and the Don says, “I wanted you to be Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone. This isn’t what I wanted for you.” And, in a very touching way, Michael responds to his father, “Don’t worry, Pop. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.” The father wants better for his son than he experienced. And the son is expressing to the father, “All that I am is as a result of you, and we will get to the place where you think we ought to be.” To me, this was the ultimate father-son scene.
What I don’t think we as a nation, or as a world, have addressed is the question of climate change. That’s something that we have to come up with concrete solutions to. The fate of the planet is pretty much at stake. That’s not hyperbole. That is a fact.
I’m a pretty finicky person when it comes to food. Sharon has expanded my horizons. She has not succeeded, however, in getting me to eat brussels sprouts. She puts cheese on ’em. Bacon on ’em. But I’m just not going there.
I remember walking out onto the podium where the president was gonna be sworn in and looking down at the largest crowd I’d ever seen in my life. I’ve seen pictures of the March on Washington, the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial going the other way. But to see from the Capitol going down to the Lincoln Memorialthe place just filled with people. I’ll never forget that. Then the cheer that you heard after the president finished taking his oath. I think about that as if it was yesterday.
It was a big deal for me when I became taller than my father. And it was a big deal to my son when it happened to him. But as I always tell him, “You may be bigger than me, but I can still take you.”
Not sure that’s true, but I keep telling him that, you know?
Have I ever met a lawyer who didn’t like to talk? Not a good one .