Thursday, August 7, 2008

John Yoo Smacked Down

John Yoo, architect of much of the Bush policy on torture and executive power, has tried to use Thomas Jefferson to justify his thoughts and Bush's power grab. Unfortunately for him, some people out there seem to have a better grasp of Jefferson's thoughts than he does.

Jefferson did not claim plenary, exclusive, independent, or inherent presidential authority. He never argued, as did the Bush administration after 9/11, that presidential powers under Article II enabled him to violate any statute or treaty that stood in his way. I think it is false for Yoo to write: "Contrary to popular belief,Jefferson believed in an independent Presidency with inherent powers." Jefferson believed in the Lockean prerogative, subject to the conditions described above.

In reading this article, I wondered if John Yoo decided to look to earlier Presidents to determine whether their concept of the office might justify what President George W. Bush did after 9/11. Perhaps my suspicions are groundless, but the quote above did not help, nor the following: "Madison's low performance is attributable in part to his narrow view of his constitutional powers as President." Nothing in Jefferson's presidency lends support to the view widely circulated in the Bush administration that the President is endowed with inherent powers in national security that trump statutes, treaties, judicial decisions, and the Constitution.

There has been a definite strain of intellectual dishonesty on the right, especially in those slavishly devoted to Bush and his policies. You'd think that these people might remember that there are smart people out there who disagree with them and can easily pick apart the flimsy arguments they make. Of course, they were able to convince America to put Bush back in office, so maybe their tactics work.

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