Obama
Evan Vucci  /  AP
President Barack Obama, left, looks during the installation ceremony for Attorney General Eric Holder, second from left, as the eighty second Attorney General of the United States, Friday, March 27, 2009, in Washington. From left are, Obama, Holder, Holder's wife Dr. Sharon Malone, and Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Robert Richter.
updated 3/27/2009 3:38:24 PM ET 2009-03-27T19:38:24

President Barack Obama said on Friday that Eric Holder has learned from history and will let neither fear nor ideology cloud his judgment as attorney general.

"These are mistakes he will not repeat. Because in the end, Eric comes to this job with only one agenda: to do what is right under the law," the president said at a ceremonial swearing-in for Holder.

Obama said as a "student of history," Holder knows "what happens when we let politics and ideology cloud our judgment — and let fear and anger, rather than reason, dictate our policy."

"I sought someone who recognizes the very real threats we face, but has the wisdom, in those hard-to-call cases, to find that fine balance between ensuring our security and preserving our liberty," said the president.

One of Holder's predecessors, former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, resigned under pressure in 2007 amid a controversy over the firings of several federal prosecutors for what were seen as political reasons.

And the Bush Justice Department's approval of harsh treatment of terrorist suspects has been widely criticized.

The ceremonial event at a George Washington University auditorium came weeks after Holder took office. He was officially sworn-in as the country's top lawyer on Feb. 3.

Commenting on Holder's "independence of mind," Obama joked, "In fact, several months ago, Eric even had the audacity to comment to a reporter on my basketball skills...he said, 'I'm not sure he's ready for my New York game.'"

"We will see about that, Mr. Attorney General," he added as the audience applauded.

Obama also said that sometimes "law lags behind justice — and it is up to us to bridge that distance," referring to America's era of racial segregation laws as one example.

Holder emphasized the importance of civil rights protection in the Justice Department.

"We will protect the civil rights of our fellow citizens — all of our fellow citizens — in the workplace, in the housing market, in the educational institutions, and in the voting booth, as well as in their day-to-day lives," said Holder, the first African-American to become attorney general.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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