Editorial: It’s official: There’s no reasoning with Holder


Is it too soon to start counting the days until Eric Holder is no longer attorney general of the United States? Never mind the constantly growing list of Justice Department fumbles and fiascos; his attempt to derail the merger of American Airlines and US Airways is enough to earn him the undisputed title of worst attorney general in memory. The lawsuit he filed in August to block the merger was bad enough, delaying American’s emergence from bankruptcy and threatening a business deal that would not only create the world’s largest airline but also fuel competitiveness in the travel industry to the benefit of consumers and the economy. And now, the airlines step forward with a perfectly reasonable offer to settle the suit in advance of the scheduled Nov. 25 trial date and what does Holder do? He calls a press conference and scoffs at the settlement offer, arrogantly telling the airlines, in effect, that he won’t agree to any settlement that doesn’t allow him to tell the merged company how to run its business. The airlines’ settlement offer addressed the concern that is known to be paramount with the Justice Department and others in Washington: the merged company’s potential control of flights in and out of Reagan National Airport. American and US Airways said they would be willing to give up landing and takeoff slots at Reagan to assuage the government’s concern that the merger would lead to fewer flights and higher prices. Holder’s response: “We will not agree to something that does not fundamentally resolve the concerns that were expressed in the lawsuit …” Translation: Among other concessions, the airlines would have to give up takeoff and landing rights at airports all across America, not just at Reagan National. The airlines just might have to fight this out in court, a costly exercise that even if they win will delay the merged airline’s emergence as a competitive force in the industry. But there would be a certain amount of satisfaction in winning the lawsuit – and, as the saying goes, in handing Holder his head on a platter.