Interestingly enough, as political as D.C. is, and as much as Republicans have tried to portray Holder as political, there’s an argument to be made that maybe he eschewed politics at his own expense. His use for Capitol Hill niceties sometimes stopped at the foot of Republican intransigence. And it all depends on how “political” is defined, since Holder was far from a brown-nosing deal cutter, and more so a happily unsubmissive negotiator.

Which is, perhaps, where Holder wanted it. Leave likability to the partisans. Popularity contests are for the electoral prom kings and queens. It wasn’t his job, he figured, to get re-elected; it was merely his job to serve at the pleasure of the elected president who picked him. With that, Holder embraced his recalcitrant-outsider meme, a mix of embattled, angry Boondocks nerdiness perfectly aligned with the quiet muscularity of shrewd administration consigliere.

Yet in the end, Holder’s operational philosophy wasn’t necessarily combative or waywardly activist, as his frustrated enemies would characterize him. Once the Holder era ended, we walked away with the comfortable notion that he simply wanted to be the best purveyor of law that he could be.