John Yoo: Stupid Political Hack AND Craven Addington Disciple

If ever there were a doubt that John Yoo was not just a craven lackey for David Addington, but also a stupid political hack, his op-ed today puts that doubt to rest. After whining about how mean the Senate Judiciary Committee was to Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas and John Roberts (!) and Sam Alito, Yoo launches into the kind of fantastic ravings you’d expect from Glenn Beck.

Republicans can also use the filibuster to return the federal government to its proper role in our constitutional system. When Obama chose Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court last year, the jury was still out on the president. It wasn’t clear if Obama was a moderate technocrat, as much of the electorate hoped, or if he was a man of the left, as Republicans feared.

That answer is now clear. At home, Obama has launched a broad campaign to redistribute wealth and engineer social change. He and his large congressional majorities enacted a wasteful $800 billion stimulus, increased the national debt by 50 percent in two years, and nationalized the health-care sector – fully one-sixth of the economy.

On national security, Obama kept to the Bush-Petraeus drawdown schedule for Iraq and reluctantly surged troops to Afghanistan. But he has tried his best to fit the war against al-Qaeda into the box reserved for criminal activities: He promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay, abjured tough questioning tactics, loosed a special prosecutor on CIA interrogators, announced a civilian trial in New York City for 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and automatically treated al-Qaeda’s Christmas Day bomber as a criminal suspect.


The GOP will earn public support for its actions, but more important it will be returning the Supreme Court to the original meaning and purpose of the Constitution. The framers wanted the federal government to play a limited role in domestic affairs, and an energetic one to protect the national security against unforeseen emergencies and war. They did not establish a government to redistribute income or impose a socialistic vision of regulated markets. The Constitution’s preamble declares its purpose: to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare,” not balance the common defense and promote special interests. If President Obama doesn’t send the Senate a nominee who understands those words, the Supreme Court vacancy could be another issue to await the results of the November elections.

John Yoo, apparently, had no problem with the way George Bush redistributed wealth to the very rich with the Wall Street Bailout and huge cuts in the estate tax. And he seems to have missed the news that Obama has embraced the kind of tools of unchecked executive power–including the ability to target American citizens for death with no due process–that John Yoo loves. And how cute that John Yoo now questions the kind of civilian trials that Bush used with Richard Reid and (eventually) Jose Padilla.

But what I’m most amused by is Yoo’s critique of Obama’s choice to forgo torture (kind of).

[He] abjured tough questioning tactics, loosed a special prosecutor on CIA interrogators…

You see, John Yoo has always pretended he neutrally read the law when he wrote his torture memos. He claimed, repeatedly, that he just did the legal analysis and had no stake in the policy decision. He suggested that he didn’t care, one way or another, whether Bush and Cheney embraced torture, he was just the lawyer doing analysis in isolation from those policy questions. He further has claimed that he only approved limited torture, not the techniques described by the press (which happen to match what the CIA IG saw on the torture tapes).

But all that, of course, is proven to be bullshit, as John Yoo bases his critique of Obama on the claim that Obama has chosen not to use the illegal tactics that Yoo himself authorized. That’s not only an admission–on the part of Yoo–that his claims to political neutrality were all lies. But it’s a repudiation of the very expansive claims to executive power that John Yoo holds dear: after all, if the executive has absolute authority to decide how to implement foreign policy, than the disgraced hacks from the past Administration have no business critiquing the exercise of that authority. The unitary executive is not a requirement that the executive always choose the most extreme policy just for shits and giggles, but rather that the executive has the authority to decide what to do, even including choosing less abusive but more effective policies (which is not to say Obama has always taken that approach).

John Yoo was always an embarrassing hack. But for some reason, the upcoming SCOTUS fight has made him reveal his hackery in full splendor.

51 replies
  1. AZ Matt says:

    When it comes to wealth redistribution Yoo is a one way valve that lets money flow up but not down. Where does this fool get off talking out of his ass like this? He is a very stupid f*ck.

    • banderson2 says:

      If the Justice Department had went after this guy the way they were suppose to he wouldn’t be out there now acting like someone with supreme knowledge of what a SCJ is suppose to be.

  2. allan says:

    … always pretended he neutrally read the law when he wrote his torture memos.

    Because Yoo is an impartial referee. Just like his friend, John Roberts. Also.

  3. nomolos says:

    Wow, with all that incredible knowledge it is no wonder I am going to vote Yoo in the next election.

  4. orionATL says:

    if yoo could manufacture specious arguments for torture, aka in yoo-speak “tough questioning”,

    and he could and did,

    why would he not be capable of manufactiring a specious argument about supreme court appointments?


    he is capable, and he did manufacture inane, fact-free political sophistry in his phil inquirer editorial.

    it is important always to keep in mind that john yoo is a member of the federalist society.

    in fact, john yoo is the foo-lish public face of the federalist society.

    note that the little print at the bottom identifies yoo as a ucb law prof.

    note as well that he is a “visiting scholar” at the right-wing think-tank, aei.

    it seems to me yoo would have come closer to full disclosure if he had signed his cockamaimy editorial with his aei title.

  5. Arbusto says:

    Is Johnny just pissed he didn’t make the final cut for the current Supreme opening or that Obama is working to out distant Bush on the imperial presidency?

  6. Jeff Kaye says:

    “Balance the common defense”… what does that even mean? With spittle flecking at the corners of his mouth, Marcy demolishes Yoo on precisely the point he deserves to be clobbered: his BS declaration of impartiality — “just doin’ my job, ma’m” — in the writing of the torture memos.

    Marcy to Yoo: “Gotcha!”

    Yoo to Marcy (in my imagination): “You can’t handle the truth!”

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Yoo is not stupid. He is extreme, radical, craven, executive authority loving, and an acolyte for authoritarians like Dick Cheney and his brood. He has a Confucian contempt for representative government and civil society below the level of the Mandarin. He could be readily dismissed if he were not employed as a mouthpiece for more powerful figures who intend to return to the White House or hide behind it while they employ another Zaphod Beeblebrux to sit in the Oval Office.

    Yoo must also think that sports metaphors – the best defense is a good offense – always apply in politics. As EW says, sometimes they simply help document the record against the speaker.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I’ll second that. Yoo ain’t stupid. He got everything he wanted, he’s a professor of LAW in Calif, and the paperwork he did was good enough to keep ObamaCo from indicting anybody.

      Boxturtle (Granted, Obama would have accepted a note from Bush’s parents as excuse enough)

      • skdadl says:

        (Granted, Obama would have accepted a note from Bush’s parents as excuse enough)

        Och, that made me laugh.

        Periodically obligatory question: Do we know yet where Addington is or what he is doing? Don’t we want to see his hands on the table?

    • fatster says:

      I don’t think he is stupid, either. But he is sure counting on ‘Murkins to be stupid and uninterested. The more he keeps piling on the large mushroom farm of ‘Murka, the more secure he is.

      Actually, I’d like to think he’s scared and that’s why he’s writing such patently absurd crap. Oh, I do wish it were so.

    • lysias says:

      Yoo may be an authoritarian, but why is he still following Cheney, Addington, et al.? Even if you think that we need an elite to rule us, surely these guys’ miserable failures prove that they’re no elite.

    • uneasyone says:

      You said it so I didn’t have to.

      “Know your enemy” is an absolute prerequisite to defeating your enemy.

      Yoo is evil, he is a tool of fascist/corporate interests, he is a knowing, craven liar – not stupid at all.

      If we underestimate these jerks, we lose. Yoo is brilliant, actually. He makes cogent arguments and backs them up with fact. I have seen him debate one right-wing point or another many times on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer – before he ever worked for Bush. Matter of fact, I am reasonably sure that his top flight skills as a propagandist, demonstrated there, got him his White House gig.

      He is one of the most adept liars I have ever seen – and I am also sure that his willingness to bend any fact to make his argument is what got him involved in the torture memo business. He simply has no soul.

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    It looks like Yoo finds US history since the New Deal dissonant with the ruff reddy way the thirteen colonies should have developed; and he probably finds modern French history distasteful. For Yoo, it may be ok to skimp on EIRs for deepwater oil drilling. Extinction of species are gruff collateral damage. Decommissioning of the SEC may be set to be part of the neoContract with America 2010 version getting written in think tanks this summer.

    Associated Press published an article accompanied by a photo of the current Supreme Court justices; however, the photos are different in various news outlets; some of the images reveal how rigid, almost insensitive, the conservatives on the court appear, as a bloc. Link to one of the surrogate photos; it was the newsstand version of the AP article that had the most obdurate visages, however, and I have yet to locate that other, more revealing image online.

  9. Jim White says:

    John Yoo was always an embarrassing hack. But for some reason, the upcoming SCOTUS fight has made him reveal his hackery in full splendor.

    I suspect the reason is that Yoo thinks that if McCain, or better still, Palin, were president, he would now be measuring his new SCOTUS chambers for draperies. It’s just so unfair that he has to wait through a couple of appointments, hoping for a change in administrations.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I actually think they went too far with that. Yes, Yoo deserves much worse. But those students in his class PAID for that class, knowing full well what sort of person was teaching it. And it ended up getting cancelled.

      Haunt him at restraunts. Haunt him at shows. Haunt him around campus between classes. Put a solid circle of ghostly orange prisoners around his home. Make sure he can’t drive to campus without seeing an orange jumpsuit on a billboard. Be his conscience.

      Boxturtle (There’s a job that would evey scare Jiminy Cricket!)

  10. JThomason says:

    More proof is a political hack and not a lawyer. He only argues for advantage with no anchor in the constitution, the common law, common decency or common reason. He is the kind of agent the profiteers dreamed of creating in taking the bar into the market place in the last 50 years just as health care has been demeaned by marketing.

    Perhaps it is demographically inevitable that this kind of political talk masquerading as legal reasoning emerged but the the demographics were quite different in the the emergence of the sophists and pharisees. So like I said, maybe he is just a hack.

    • JThomason says:

      Wow, I appropriated your headline into my nether brain pretty quickly. Must be the power of media.

  11. fatster says:

    Kind of O/T. This is a real sign of the times:

    “The Supreme Court is closing its iconic front entrance beneath the words “Equal Justice Under Law.”‘


  12. freepatriot says:

    john yoo wants a scotus seat ???

    I’d be willing to run for the Senate just to be a part of the confirmation questioning

    that would be worth all the crap you have to shovel to run for office in this country

    when I’m willing to kiss a baby, then I’m willing to do just about anything, yoo don’t want that …

  13. freepatriot says:

    and isn’t “craven” part of the job description for addington disciples ???

    where did I put that hand book …

    (drive bye high)

  14. DeadLast says:

    I would still love to find out who gave him a job at Berkeley, and what that person got in return!

  15. Jkat says:

    imo .. he should be speaking from a cell somewhere while wearing a little orange jumpsuit …

  16. Mary says:

    I especially like the fact that Yoo and his OPR investigation supporters really want things on the CIA torture both ways. On the one hand, they say over and over that Yoo didn’t give a reliance opinion/comfort opinion and no one who did even the bad things in the opinions, much less bad things not in them, could claim to be protected by the opinions (hence, Yoo should not receive any professional or criminal censure) –

    – but on the other hand, he thinks it’s horrible that the guys he didn’t give any reliance opinion too would be investigated for the things that he said in his opinion … a jury might decide were violations of torture statutes.

    With such muddled thinking, you can see why he’s a “go to” for op eds. And yeah, this: “Obama has launched a broad campaign to redistribute wealth and engineer social change” sounds like a guy who forgot about the Bush years redistribution of wealth and the engineering of the conversion of America into torture regime.

      • Mary says:

        But which he didn’t tell them they could do, of course.

        Box Turtle – don’t feel so bad for them. The class wasn’t cancelled. Yoo went and got someone much bigger and tougher than him to make the Chaserboy leave, so they could still hold class. That’s when the Ozzite says that he’ll just go to the human rights course where he’s pretty sure Yoo won’t be speaking.

        The Chasers are (were) great and at least they managed to get Yoo on tape saying he’s sorry – lots more than anyone in our Executive, Legislative or Administrative branches (or the MSM) have done. Sure, he’s just sorry that someone is there bugging his packed to the gills class, but at least someone with a digitouch can at least isolate for posterity Yoo saying, “I’m sorry people”

        Maybe even loop it.

        It’s not like it can be said too much.

  17. rich2506 says:

    Yeah, I read Yoo’s piece in the Inky yesterday and couldn’t get beyond his assertion that for the Senate to reject Judge Robert Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court showed that the Senate was “broken.” I was taking a course in the Court & the Constitution at the time and later read Bork’s book “Tempting of America.” No, Bork was an extremist radical who had absolutely zero business being on the Court.
    What was really interesting later was to watch people defend Bush’s fuhrerprinzip concerning warrantless wiretapping and not even being aware that this completely contradicted Bork’s essential position of “judicial restraint.” I’m not aware that Bork ever spoke up to defend his oh-so-serious “principle.”

    • Mary says:

      Dahlia Lithwick had this great piece:
      in April.

      It’s about how guys like Kavenaugh and Olsen and Clarence Thomas, etc. are either “already on the bench or will be seen as legitimate candidates the next time a Republican is in the White House” while with Obama being handed overwhelming majorities, the best we can get from his is a Jack Goldsmith groupie named Kagan.

      But for a generation of law students that has grown up revering American Constitution Society stalwarts such as Dawn Johnsen, Eric Holder, Pamela Karlan, John Payton, Laurence Tribe, Goodwin Liu, David Cole, and my own partner in crime Walter Dellinger, among others, the absence of most of these names from even the long shortlist is demoralizing.

      Maybe not as demoralizing as watching Koh become a supporter of blown to bits babies from illegal drone attacks in Pakistan, but still, demoralizing is a good word for it.

    • 1boringoldman says:

      John Yoo doesn’t even attempt to cover the obvious conflict between Unitary Executive and Congress marginalized for Bush and use Congress to marginalize the Executive for Obama. Bork was the same way, selectively applying his “originalism” arguments as you say.

      What was really interesting later was to watch people defend Bush’s fuhrerprinzip concerning warrantless wiretapping and not even being aware that this completely contradicted Bork’s essential position of “judicial restraint.” I’m not aware that Bork ever spoke up to defend his oh-so-serious “principle.”

      Their beloved Federalist Society doesn’t want judges and lawyers ‘legislating from the bench’ until it’s their lawyers and judges. Then it’s fine.

      And John Yoo got off to a slow start, but he’s rapidly becoming as arrogant a sarcasticrat as Robert Bork. I didn’t think Bork could be equaled [reckon Yoo is going to sue Yale like Bork did?]…

  18. razorbrain says:

    Can’t say what I think without triggering the Moderator. But I’m thinking it REAL HARD.

  19. kuvasz says:

    Why the hell isn’t that mother fucker in jail? You know people like Yoo, BusH, and Cheney are criminals no less than the Nazis we executed after WWII. I pray to God somebody does to them what they did to others.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Because bad lawyering is not a crime. And ObamaLLP has decided to believe that it was bad lawyering, not criminal conspiracy.

      Boxturtle (Drink your koolaid, there’s a good fellow)

    • Bluetoe2 says:

      You must not have received the memo. Obama has ushered in the post partisan world where everyone looks forward and not back. By looking forward and denying the past it’s as if no crimes were ever committed.

  20. Winski says:

    Johnny Yoo…what a hack. This clown should be in PRISON FOR WAR CRIMES and the public is actually giving him the opportunity to write and spread his form of garbage.

    This man has written the justifications for un-speakable crimes and he and others should pay a mind-bending price for those actions.

  21. perris says:

    one of the things the democrats miss is how they need to phrase their response to hacks like yoo;

    “what is yoo talking about?…obama has not even come CLOSE to reclaiming the middle class wealth bush/reagan dedistributed from the working class to the already wealthy

    when yoo can get the middle class wealth taken back into the hands it came from THEN he can talk about some kind of redistribution

    in the mean time he is either a moron or thinks we are morons”

    that would do the trick very nicely

  22. Scarecrow says:

    I’m glad it’s finally out that when the Founders decried foreign entanglements and standing armies, it was just code for interfering everywhere in the world, kidnapping citizens of other countries and torturing them until they revealed their secret plans.

  23. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Thanks Marcy! Let me paraphrase Mick and Keith here:

    “Yoo can’t always get what you want, but if we try (Yoo) sometime, he’ll get what he needs”.

    We can only hope that the slow turning wheels of Justice will grind Yoo into extremely fine dust.(Also, too Bush, Cheney, Addington, Hadley, Wolfowitz, Haynes, Rice, Matlin, Myers and the rest of the WHIG’s.

    Please don’t let up on your efforts to educate the public re: the unpunished criminal enterprise that was and is the Bush Administration!

  24. timbo says:

    John Yoo is symptomatic of a lot of what is wrong in American legal theory today. Frankly, he has taken an anti-intellectual bent to all of his mouthings and claims. He is not interested in logical or fair conclusion of the law and seem much more interested in getting his way at whatever the cost. Sadly, he and his ilk have already cost America and individuals incarcerated extra-judicially a lot. Hopefully someone in the disjointed and tattered system of justice in this country will work to get him before a court of justice that functions fairly and not just as an adjunct to John Yoo’s ambitions.

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