Don't Go Away Mad, John -- Just Go Away

The architect of one dangerous Bush administration policy after another -- torture, warrantless domestic surveillance -- now is defending the White House's dubious assertion of executive privilege in the U.S. attorney scandal.

John Yoo, who never dreamed of a presidential power he wasn't willing to turn into an overbearing and arguably illegal policy, writes in today's Wall Street Journal that Republicans should rally around President Bush and help him stave off congressional Democrats' attempts to make former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor answer under oath relevant questions about the prosecutor purge.

Among his many other chestnuts, Yoo writes:

Even if a few Republicans defect, he has the Constitution on his side. His poll numbers may be low, but Congress's are even lower. Congressional Democrats have failed to follow through on the reforms promised in the 2006 campaign. They're too preoccupied with investigating rather than legislating. If the House or Senate vote contempt motions against Ms. Taylor or Ms. Miers, a U.S. Attorney must enforce them, and since they're all Bush appointees, nothing should come of it. The president has every right to order his prosecutors not to bring charges against officials who defend his legitimate constitutional claims.

A few centuries ago, a Yoo-like figure, whose work on behalf of the king had come into disrepute, might have found himself exiled or dead. At a minimum, such a man would have yielded the public stage and gone off into the wilderness somewhere to preach to a few dedicated sycophants.

But this is now. And for unrepetent people like Yoo, there is no reason to hide and no cause for shame. His torture policy leading to Abu Ghraib? No problem. His justification for the National Security Agency's domestic spy program being patently skewed? So what. He is still present, still talking, still offering bad advice about what we ought to think about the rule of law.

Historians, I suspect, will not look fondly upon Yoo and the policies he ginned up. As for the rest of us, maybe it's time we used his flawed missives as a barometer for evaluating controversial legal issues: if Yoo is for it, it's a good bet that you want to be against it. And if he's against it, it might not be a bad idea to support it. If he's not going to go into the wilderness, then at least we can allow him to help us see the forest for the trees.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 23, 2007; 8:43 AM ET agag
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I guess John Yoo hasn't been wathcing C-SPAN:

"Congressional Democrats have failed to follow through on the reforms promised in the 2006 campaign. "

The perpetual fillibuster that the REPUBLICAN minority has employed has more to do with the lack of follow through on 2006 campaign promises than anything else.

Yoo is yet another of the Bush Administration sycophants who are always certain and often wrong.

Posted by: Nellie | July 23, 2007 09:54 AM

When Yoo states: "[the president] has the Constitution on his side," I think he may create some confusion over the ambiguity involved with his idiosyncratic use of the word "Constitution".

Some Americans may mistakenly think that Yoo is referring to the document with a 1787 vintage with a lineage traced back to Philadelphia. In fact, he is referring to the Federalist Society's "Statement of 'Principles'" vintage 1982.

Posted by: JP2 | July 23, 2007 12:04 PM

Oh is that the document? Was wondering where this nonsense come from.

Posted by: | July 23, 2007 12:43 PM

That's an especially good last line, Andrew.

Posted by: T | July 23, 2007 12:45 PM

Please, Mr. Cohen, question Senators Hutchison and Cornyn, both Republicans from Texas, about this matter. You may be dismayed, if they reply at all. We continue to have in Texas local shrines to President George W. Bush. Regardless poll information, he is an immensely popular president in many areas. Not me but many of my neighbors in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex continue to approve his motives, actions and performance.
Another topic: having been an active Democrat in politics at national, state and local level, I cautioned my fellow Democrats after 2006 election that our margins were too small to achieve quickly what we wanted, that we were deluding ourselves. Unfortunately, I was correct. Bernard Kaye, Frisco, Texas

Posted by: Bernard Kaye | July 23, 2007 01:21 PM

"He is still present, still talking, still offering bad advice..."
And still teaching at Cal Berkeley unfortunately.

Posted by: james bowen | July 23, 2007 01:32 PM

Not this immediate topic, but relevant,this Fran Townsend saying again yesterday in this insane dialogue
Q: " If our enemies have a safe haven in Pakistan, under the Bush doctrine of preemptive military action to take out any threat, why aren't we doing everything we can"
to which she feels compelled to respond
"Well just because we don't do things publicly doesn't mean we're not doing many of the things you say"
to which he keeps provoking " Well are we doing those things?" and next "Well you say NO OPTIONS ARE OF THE TABLE (emphasis added)Have we in fact ACTED ON THOSE OPTIONS (emphasis added)?

Ms. Townsend shortly after repeats "Job number one is (you guessed it)TO PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. (emph. added)

The administration gets relentlessly prodded "you're not protecting us (and by any means whatever legal and ethical constraints)" to which they eventually respond (criticism they can't spin away being near the top of the list of their sensitivities), well just watch what we'll do in the name of YOUR BEST INTERESTS, you asked for it. Isn't Pakistan a country-a country that even this administration considers a strong ally (even the Pakistan minister felt the need to say that "they would like actionable evidence [of course!]" rather than something to influence American public opinion), and yet there are influential people here virtually insisting on the US attacking some other country whenever it feels like, grouping anything they feel like (of course details are never publicly spelled or verified BEFORE ACTION, and note Ms. Townsend's statement above, so the basis for attacking another country is "trust us") very unapparently with "protecting the American people". A country better act like a "good ally in the war on terror" or their borders can be expected to be violated however they feel about it, not to mention the future possibility of "regime change". If that isn't close to a totalitarian attitude I'm not sure what is.
Aren't there criminals who operate from the US and commit crimes in another continent? Do the countries in the other continent then claim the right to bomb the US?
Also keep in mind when the British sailors were taken hostage by Iran last year (of course, Iran's actions, with possible mental torture, seem far from good), that top US military officials said that if those had been American sailors their policy is to retaliate (some of that great obligated American "self-esteem", a version of rigid "honor" of previous centuries that inevitably leads to wonderful results, now with modern weapons, including nuclear ones), and the US without question would have had a war with Iran on its hands.
That a reasonably attractive lady (yes, of course appearance isn't necessarily reflective) as Ms. Townsend is the spokesperson for these sort of actions is troubling.

Posted by: DT | July 23, 2007 01:35 PM

"Historians, I suspect, will not look fondly upon Yoo and the policies he ginned up." You're assuming that historians who wouldn't/won't look fondly on Yoo & Co. will live love enough to offer their judgments.

Posted by: | July 23, 2007 02:04 PM

It is past time to call the political views of John Yoo and others of his ilk, most notably Messrs. Bush and Cheney, Neofascism. Since the 'fascist' label was tossed about so indiscriminately in the 60s and early 70s to describe anyone who exercised authority or power over others there has been a natural reluctance to use the term in describing our political leaders and opinion makers. Nonetheless, surely it is this political "F bomb" that most accurately describes the political philosophy of BushCheney and their supporters like Woo. A superpotent executive leader answerable only to himself and his god, a thoroughly weakened legislature, a contempt for law and the judiciary, a deep symbiotic relationship between government and corporate powerhouses, extreme secrecy about government operations, powerful agencies used to gather information about 'internal security,' cooption of religious institutions to serve nationalist political aims, military aggressiveness and adventurism, usurpation of the notion of 'patriotism' to describe only those who support the Leader, die Fuhrer, il Duce, el Generalissimo, the Decider and Commander Guy. The legal and political philosophies, policies and practices of men like John Woo, the pathetic nitwit Gonzales, the hapless Wolfowitz, and most importantly Richard Cheney and George Bush are dangerous to us, our children and their children. These guys need to be resisted and we could start by naming the aggregate of their philosophies, policies and practices accurately as Neofascism.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | July 23, 2007 02:30 PM

So, by the Yoo legal reasoning, a President can halt any action by a US Attorney? Does anyone really believe that? Does anyone feel safe with a Presidential over-ride of prosecutions?
Couldn't that lead to all manner of abuse?
I seem to remember a President who fired a prosecuter for investigating him. That ended rather badly for him, didn't it?

Posted by: Shannon Parker | July 23, 2007 02:51 PM

Andrew, to be pedantic, a good line assuming that "the wilderness" is a forest rather than a treeles desert.

Posted by: T | July 23, 2007 03:02 PM

Looking into Ms. Townsend more, B.A. psychology 1985(not necessarily in itself but contains many doctrines congenial to and prominent in the current administration's attitudes and policies), Catholic law schools (including University of San Diego, THERE'S a party school for a Catholic girl) Don't want to asperse on something cursory, but widely accused for being "an ambitious suckup" ; maybe the background (including the educational)explains something of the willingness to take hard-line positions (probably rooted in fear) assumed necessary to be vigilant against the evil a constant menace all around us.

Posted by: D | July 23, 2007 03:28 PM

Exotic action/adventure and martial arts blend together in a new franchise: Max Havoc. In Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon, Max Havoc (Mickey Hardt), world famous kickboxer turned sports photographer, returns to Guam and faces the relentless Black Dragons, in an reluctant quest to save the lovely Goody sisters (Joanna Krupa, Tawney Sablan) and to avenge the death of good friend Tahsi (Richard Roundtree).

Posted by: John F. S. Laing | July 23, 2007 03:50 PM

I've noticed that their supporters are much more shocked troubles and awakened by being likened to Stalinists, which in some areas (torture, justice as a tool of political persecution) they resemble more. Perhaps Stalinofacists or some such would be better.

Posted by: wrb | July 23, 2007 06:50 PM

The above was for Bosleys comment on neofascists

Posted by: wrb | July 23, 2007 06:52 PM

How quickly things change. After the Gingrich horde took over Congress during the previous administration they maneuvered to try to make the Executive irrelevant with Congress wielding most of the power. Now that the Republicans have one of their own in the Executive they want it to go the other way. Assuming that the Democrats will retake the POTUS what will the Republican plan be then?

Posted by: RonGFZ | July 23, 2007 07:51 PM

Yoo is one of many rhat should be stuffed on a cargo plane and flown to the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague!

Posted by: ghostcommander | July 24, 2007 05:30 AM

Thanks to WRB for the comment and suggestion. All autocracies have much in common, Stalist, fascist, theocracies, and absolute monarchies, and our governments use of torture (let's call a spade a spade) is certainly as reminiscent of Stalin and the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe as it is of fascistic regimes. Ditto the subversion of an independent judiciary. The Bush regime has not been able to subvert the federal judiciary, thank God, which is composed of judges with lifetime tenure, but given what's happened at the Department of Justice under Gonzales, we shouldn't have much doubt that the regime would politicize the judiciary if it could. Indeed, if both the White House and Congress were controlled by BushCheneyites, they would over time subvert the judiciary through the executive power of appointment and the legislative powers of confirmation, funding, impeachment, and control of subject matter jurisdiction. Those who are disposed towards autocratic or idealogical oligarchic rule are, by definition and experience, intolerant of interference from any quarter, whether within the government or without. They certainly see no virtue whatsoever in the idea of 'separation of powers' built into our Constitution for the precise purpose (in large measure at least) of restraining the power of the Executive. So whether we lump BushCheney and their ilk with the fascisti, the Stalinists, the mullahs, or others of like mind about the uses and abuses of governmental power, one thing we can be sure of: they're not democrats (with a small "d".)

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | July 24, 2007 07:46 AM

This Yoo should be deported back to whatever asain country from which he came.Why is he allowed to even be here,much less in a position to influence our government?This is another example of our disasterous immigration laws.

Posted by: cincigsl74 | July 24, 2007 07:49 AM

Mr. Yoo is untroubled by reality, unaware of dissent, unswerving in his loyalty to crypto-President Cheney, and unapologetic in his advocacy of neo-Stalino-fascist policies to "control" the American public. Good advice to view him as a consistent predictor of the wrong course of action.

Posted by: J. Yoo | July 24, 2007 10:54 AM

Bosley and wrb, am sympathetic, of course at least Bush hasn't been responsible for 1.5 million deaths by purge alone not to mention the gulags, etc..according to Conquest regarding Stalin(of course you do have about 1 million Iraqis as well numerous Afghans, which even though GW isn't responsible for all of them, WE CAN BE ASSURED FAR FEWER WOULD HAVE DIED LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES).

Posted by: Alpha | July 24, 2007 11:41 AM

cincigsI74, if Mr. Yoo is responsible for much of the policies, and he certainly keeps advocating for them, I have no support for him, but you shouldn't be thinking what you said. I hope it is a joke of some sort. It reads as if you mean the problems with the Bush policies are due to immigrants influencing Bush administration's policies! Who do you think made those policies, the immigrants? Those damn Asains, responsible for Iraq, Afghanistan, lies of various sorts, etc.etc. (no, I'm not Asain; people can have beliefs not based on their personal circumstances)

Posted by: Ron | July 24, 2007 11:53 AM

Is this what we should expect from the WSJ now that Murdoch has his tentacles wrapped around it?

Why do these media moguls continue to empower these psychopathic no-bid book-cooking lawless rogues?

Birds of a feather?

Protecting "their own?"

For some reason, the 4th Estate has completely "left behind" the dead-tree journalist's good-old boys and girls' club, and has moved up to the blogs.

Nowadays, the MSM is nothing more than a bunch of hot air, simultaneously demading respect and spewing falsehoods, all in the same breath. It is no wonder we are moving to the blogs, at least there, we aren't expected to believe every lie we read.

Posted by: | July 24, 2007 12:06 PM

Is this what we should expect from the WSJ now that Murdoch has his tentacles wrapped around it?

Why do these media moguls continue to empower these psychopathic no-bid book-cooking lawless rogues?

Birds of a feather?

Protecting "their own?"

For some reason, the 4th Estate has completely "left behind" the dead-tree journalist's good-old boys and girls' club, and has moved up to the blogs.

Nowadays, the MSM is nothing more than a bunch of hot air, simultaneously demading respect and spewing falsehoods, all in the same breath. It is no wonder we are moving to the blogs, at least there, we aren't expected to believe every lie we read.

Posted by: JEP | July 24, 2007 12:06 PM


Yoo may be a lousy excuse for a constitutional scholar, but your zenophobic rant was way out of line. If you want to go after Yoo, there are plenty of legitimate reasons. To go after him because he does not conform to the northern-European racial ideal is beyond the pale.

Posted by: Nellie | July 24, 2007 12:07 PM

Maybe Daniel Pearl was one of the reasons for the WSJ tendency, not that I agree with a personal circumstance being a good reason for a general bias

Posted by: Jon | July 24, 2007 12:33 PM

Boz wrote
>The Bush regime has not been able to subvert the federal judiciary, thank God, which is composed of judges with lifetime tenure<

You are more confident than I am.

Posted by: wrb | July 24, 2007 12:33 PM

Besides, Yoo comes off as an intellectual impostor these days, sure of his conclusions before he makes any analysis. Creatively, his brain's running on fumes. Not that that matters to a country which is in the middle of the horrible situations caused by imperialists like him and and Cheney and Addington (Bush is just their imp. Under kinder influence he might've actually been a somewhat benevolent president, I think. He hasn't really thought much through).

Posted by: Michael | July 24, 2007 12:41 PM

I'd go along with the current against Mr. Yoo's recommendations, but would also say just as strongly that blindly choosing the opposite of what he says isn't the way to go. Predetermined blind side-taking (sometimes confused with "faith")of whatever side is what causes problems, some of which we see now. Look at the situation on its own terms and all its facts, and what is reasonably desirable without negative effects on others, I say. It's even possible that Mr. Yoo might say something true once in a while!

Posted by: Alfred Prufrock | July 24, 2007 12:55 PM

Don't look for Yoo to ever go away. His type show up again and again, and get into positions of power again and again.

Consider Elliott Abrams as a recent model.

Posted by: DC | July 24, 2007 02:10 PM

Just heard, a mutual subcommittee including Iraq, US, and Iran? Well,to use an abstruse,erudite phrase, duh.

One should realize there would be no such thing if Georgie had had the opportunity to proclaim winning the war without having to do so (he STILL talks as if winning the war would justify everything). Only God knows also what the US might have done (of course Republicans seem to adapt to ANYTHING pronounced by the higher-ups as a practical universally obvious absolute)if Iran (with its serious shortcomings)didn't exist as a viable counter viewpoint in the region (surely no one thinks any of the Arab countries, from Qatar to Syria, has a significant military, and hence political, presence in the region of which they comprise a huge part. Maybe that also shows why Iraq is of such strategic significance within the region to THE DECIDER/architect and his whiny "interests". He has said repeatedly he intended for Iraq to be his legacy ). Much becomes clearer.

Posted by: Xanadu | July 24, 2007 02:31 PM

pace Michael, maybe I should say George's advisors, but he might possibly be more independent minded of them than some like to believe

Posted by: Xanadu | July 24, 2007 02:34 PM

At the center of legal reconstruction work are Alberto R. "Fredo" Gonzales, the White House counsel, his deputy Timothy E. Flanigan, and David S. Addington, legal counsel to Vice President Cheney. [New York Times, 12/19/2004] They will find a helpful hand in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), most notably its head, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee [Los Angeles Times, 6/10/2004] and his deputies John C. Yoo [New York Times, 8/15/2004] and Patrick F. Philbin. Most of the top government lawyers dwell in fairly conservative circles, with many being a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal fraternity. Some have clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, whose ruling effectively lead to the presidency being awarded to George W. Bush after the 2000 presidential election.

It is worth deeply investigating how Yoo was put into place in his position at DOJ. He unleashed the intelligence community against the American people. But who maneuvered Yoo into his position? This classic chicken and egg problem can not be answered by Osama bin Laden but there is probably one Bush Pioneer who knows.

(John had written a memo during his Justice Department stint arguing that physical interrogations had to cause damage on the order of major organ failure before they were considered torture under American law, and that anyway the commander in chief was exempt from such laws. The memo got some seriously bad reviews. ''The stench of corruption permeates the page," wrote the Yale law professor Jack Balkin.)

September 11, 2001: David Addington, who is Dick Cheney's general counsel and legal advisor, had been walking towards his Virginia home, after having to leave the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This building, located next to the White House, was evacuated at around 9:45 a.m. But he receives a message from the White House telling him to turn around, because the vice president needs him. After Addington joins Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, the pair reportedly begin "contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his power grab?" Later in the day, Addington connects by secure video with Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, who is in the White House Situation Room. John Yoo, the deputy chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, is also patched in from the Justice Department's command center. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales joins them later. This forms the core legal team that Cheney will oversee after the Pet Goat Attack. Along with these allies of his, Cheney will provide what the Washington Post calls "the rationale and political muscle to drive far-reaching legal changes through the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon," which will free the president to unleash the vast military infrastructure covertly against the American people, "as he saw fit."

Posted by: The Usual Suspects | July 24, 2007 06:01 PM

"below the East Wing of the White House, the pair..grab'" "Reportedly" according to whom?

Posted by: fbt | July 24, 2007 06:44 PM

Well said, Bosley at 2:30

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