Excuse me while my head explodes

Perhaps I am hopelessly naive. Perhaps I need to adjust my level of ironic disenchantment with humanity. But today's Times Op-Ed piece by John Yoo and John Bolton is awash in such intellectual inconsistency and political opportunism, it makes my jaw drop.

Like past presidents, Mr. Obama will likely be tempted to avoid the requirement that treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate.


By insisting on the proper constitutional process for treaty-making, Republicans can join Mr. Obama in advancing a bipartisan foreign policy. They can also help strike the proper balance between the legislative and executive branches that so many have called for in recent years.
This may be the most cynical thing I have ever read. Because if you type the name "John Yoo" into the Google search bar, you are helpfully directed to the most common search item "John Yoo torture memo." You remember that memo, right? It got a lot of attention:

It was, as The New York Times and Washington Post report, a green light for military interrogators to use just about any technique the Pentagon deemed useful. Criminal statutes prohibiting torture stopped at the water's edge, because, Yoo wrote, "such criminal statutes, if they were misconstrued to apply to the interrogation of enemy combatants, would conflict with the Constitution's grant of Commander in Chief power solely to the President."
It also made a hash of the Geneva Conventions. In his own words:

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel – where I worked at the time – determined that the Geneva Conventions legally do not apply to the war on terrorism because Al-Qaida is not a nation-state and has not signed the treaties.


The Taliban raised different questions because Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Conventions, and the Taliban arguably operated as its de facto government. But the Justice Department found that the president had reasonable grounds to deny Taliban members POW status because they did not meet the conventions' requirements that lawful combatants operate under responsible command, wear distinctive insignia, and obey the laws of war.

So, per Yoo, the President's power to do what he wants in a time of war is essentially unhindered by such petty concerns as congressional statutes and international treaties. But now Yoo is calling for legislative check on presidential power, and holding forth that a two-thirds supermajority is required for passage of treaties in order to be in keeping with constitutional checks and balances.

Regarding John Bolton and his respect for Congress, (to quote Pilate in Jesus Christ, Superstar) till now this has been noticably lacking. In fact, contempt seems kind of like Bolton's MO. I find his sudden appreciation for legislative authority refreshing.

I wonder what could possibly account for this very abrupt change of heart. What could have changed? Why would they suddenly care about approval of treaties by supermajority? For surely for two public servants as honest and civic-minded as these, it couldn't possibly be craven political calculation. Could it?


  1. Yoo made a fantastic career out manipulating the law for the worst kind of scumbags. I can't believe they haven't run him out of Berkeley yet.

  2. Why do you read this stuff. When you saw it was authored by those two, could you have just skipped over it.

  3. Well, it's not like I read it with the expectation that there would be anything valuable therein. But if they're gonna put this crap out there, someone has to read it.

  4. My google search terms "john yoo john bolton suddenly care about the constitution" yielded your blog entry. I appreciate that someone else noticed this for what it was.

  5. You've just discovered that our public "servants" are driven almost entirely by craven political calculation? Surely you jest, or else you really are hopelessly naive. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bolton, Blagojevich, Stevens -- party doesn't matter, and political philosophy doesn't matter.

    Mediocre hacks who are willing to grub for power win almost every time over those with a distaste for, as you put it, craven political calculation.

  6. They're not normally this flagrant in their shifting of positions with the changing political fortunes of their party.

    And of course I will probably be disappointed by Obama as time goes by, but I'm willing to be cautiously optimistic for the time being.

  7. "They're not normally this flagrant in their shifting of positions with the changing political fortunes of their party."

    A pig with lipstick is still a pig. Craven political calculation dressed up with smooth words is still craven political calculation. Personally, I don't care much for the smooth words.

    As for Obama, I am very, very cautiously optimistic as well. My main concern is that he will land us in a hot shooting war, given his propensity to tell everyone what he thinks they want to hear. A few more episodes like the Kaczynski caper, and some foreign leaders might decide he can't be trusted. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

  8. Oh, speaking of flagrant shifting of political positions, how about Obama and Reid on seating the Blagojevich appointee to the Senate?


    "U.S. President-elect Barack Obama said on Tuesday he agreed that Senate Democrats "cannot accept" any move by Illinois' scandal-tarred governor to name a replacement for Obama's Senate seat."

    That changed just as much and just as quickly as John Yoo's views. Get used to it. That's what politics is all about; getting and keeping power, not adhering to a set of principles.