Monday, January 05, 2009

Yoo Who?

As has been noted in a few other locales (though none with the post-title eloquence of John Cole), John Bolton and John Yoo have recently taken to the pages of the New York Times to preemptively warn about, of all things, executive overreach by the incoming Obama administation. Specifically, the two Johns are worried that President Obama will be tempted to circumvent Constitutionally-mandated treaty-ratification requirements in the pursuit of certain items on the "global governance" agenda: namely greenhouse gas reduction measures and non-proliferation/arms control agreements.

From a timing point of view, the admonition about adopting treaty-like arrangements without the two-thirds approval of the Senate (as Contstitutionally required) is a bit odd to say the least: President Bush has just concluded an extensive and far-reaching SOFA and Strategic Framework Agreement with the Iraqi government that, together, rise to the level of a treaty using most commonly accepted criteria - and certainly the loose standards applied by Yoo and Bolton.

Does that mean that Yoo and Bolton will be calling for that SOFA to be disregarded unless and until it receives approval by two-thirds of the Senate? Of course not. Such standards only apply to initiatives sought by Democrats. Both Yoo and Bolton are all for a near limitless range of executive authority when a Republican is in charge - it's the Democrats that bring out the concern for separatio0n of powers and checks and balances. As Benen notes:

Reading this, I had to double check to make sure we were talking about the same Bolton and Yoo. After all, John Yoo has spent most of the last eight years arguing that the president has an unfettered power to do as he pleases on the international stage. Indeed, Yoo argued that the president can literally ignore any law he chooses -- including the Constitution -- if he decides it's in the nation's interests.

But that was then. Now Yoo is worried about executive overreach. Now Yoo wants every letter of the Constitution to be respected and adhered to without exception. The very same people who argued that the president must act without restriction when pursuing his foreign policy are now arguing that the president must honor the Treaty Clause at all costs.

But John Yoo's record of intellectual dishonesty stretches back farther than the last eight years. During the Clinton administration, Yoo was a vocal critic of then-President Clinton's attempt to use executive privilege to shield material and subordinates from subpoenas and other prosecutorial prying. But when President Bush evoked an even broader executive privilege cone of protection, Yoo wrote an Op-Ed in defense of Bush's far-reaching prerogative.

Yoo even shifted positions on a key issue within a three year span during the Bush administration's tenure. With respect to FISA's suitability as a surveillance regime he was for it before he was against it, so to speak. His about face was serendipitously timed with revelations about the Bush administration's use of warrantless surveillance in contravention of FISA, and his opinions "evolved" to line up neatly with Bush administration's radical position.

As Scott Horton wrote some time ago, "[w]hat motivates John Yoo and his friends is partisan politics, 24/7." Indeed, the New York Times owes is readers more than to give a podium to such a blatant and shameless partisan hack. But then, they gave a regular gig to William Kristol, so what do you expect.

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