Executive Power

HackWatch: John Yoo Edition

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Per Jacob Sullum's post below on the John Yoo/John Bolton piece in the New York Times, I think we have a new addition to our HackWatch feature.  Yoo, who under President Bush has argued that the president has the power to unilaterally withdraw from treaties, now wants the Senate to reassert its treaty power, because he fears the sorts of entanglements into which President-Elect Obama might get us enmeshed.

Yoo gets an 9 out of 10 on the somewhat-arbitrary Hackery Index.  The only ameliorating factor, here, is that Yoo's hackery seems more issue-oriented than strictly party-oriented. That is, he isn't explicitly arguing that Republican presidents should have more power than Democratic presidents.  Rather, he believes the president should have plenary power to negate treaties pertaining to issues broadly related to national security, but wants the Senate to reassert itself on treaties related to domestic policy.  Of course, the issues where Yoo wants plenary executive power happen to be issues where he agrees with Republicans, and the issues where he wants more Senate control are those issues where he doesn't trust Obama.  But Yoo does at least have a constitutional argument for making the distinction. It just happens to be a crappy one.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who's done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and "HackWatch" in the subject line.

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  1. HackWatch needs a brand symbol. I suggest a see-saw or an ouroboros or a hog eating its own young.

  2. Rather, he believes the president should have plenary power to negate treaties pertaining issues broadly related national security, but wants the Senate to reassert itself on treaties related to domestic policy.

    Well, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive, so this isnt totally out of left field.

  3. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue…

    I like the “if”. That’s so cute.

  4. You need a new term for this. Yoo and Bolton were hacks long before this.

    Well, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive, so this isnt totally out of left field.

    Except for the responsibility to declare war. That seems to be a major part of national security.

  5. Except for the responsibility to declare war. That seems to be a major part of national security.

    Not really. Not since 1941.

  6. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.

    I want to say joe…but he is not a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature.

    He is a huge hack though.

  7. “HackWatch needs a brand symbol. I suggest a see-saw or an ouroboros or a hog eating its own young.”

    They should make up a nice graphic index bar with a slider. It could even have a thumbnail of the particular hack in question on it.

  8. “Well, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive, so this isnt totally out of left field.”

    But is it the sole responsibilty of the Executive? I don’t think that after reading the Constiution – the US’s consititution that is, not the one that Yoo imagines exists or would have written himself – the answer to my question can in anyway be “yes”. The phrase consisting of “by and with” does have to have some type of meaning.

  9. That Son-of-a-Bitch Van Owen,

    Actually, I had imagined the rating graphic would be tiny Gillespie jackets, like “Harry Reid gets 7 black jackets out of 10.”

    (Little known fact: If you get 10 out of 10, you actually gain the power to beat jukeboxes into working.)

  10. I want to say joe…but…I haven’t reversed myself on anything.

    At all.

    As disappointing as that obviously is in some quarters.

  11. Yoo is the embodiment of pure hackery. This is a man who was chosen to articulate executive branch legal positions based purely on the fact that his legal thinking is so horrendously bad he’d let them get away with anything.

  12. Hak watch.

    He’s Jean Bart today.

    [keed. ducks. runs off]

  13. aw man moose don’t call up that which you cannot put down!

    trying to graphically represent “hack watch” is indeed a difficult proposition.

  14. I haven’t reversed myself on anything.

    What was that about consistency and little minds, again?

  15. Article 2 section 2
    “He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;”

    The President does not have unilateral power to make treaties, he still needs Congress approval.

    The Constitution? Yoo didn’t take that class in law school.

  16. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.

    During this transitional time for the federal govt? You’re going to be overloaded with them. Republicans will find their ‘small government’ roots, and will begin to rail against regulation. Democrats will discover executive power and how totally sweet it is.

  17. Is this idea borrowed from Matt Taibbi’s WimbleHack, a tennis-themed tournament of hackery?

  18. “Well, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive”

    Which would mean that these parts of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution are mere typos:

    ‘The Congress shall have Power

    ‘To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations . . .

    ‘To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization . . .

    ‘To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

    ‘To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    ‘To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    ‘To provide and maintain a Navy;

    ‘To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    ‘To provide for calling forth the Militia to . . . repel Invasions . . .

    ‘To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.’

  19. Funny that Reason should run a blog post about John Yoo, the author of the toruture memos, the man who devised the legal authorization for the government to begin torturing people.

    Barack Obama just nominated Dawn Johnson to replace him. Here’s what Dawn Johnson wrote about the torture memos:

    I want to second Dahlia’s frustration with those who don’t see the newly released Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) torture memo as a big deal. Where is the outrage, the public outcry?! The shockingly flawed content of this memo, the deficient processes that led to its issuance, the horrific acts it encouraged, the fact that it was kept secret for years and that the Bush administration continues to withhold other memos like it–all demand our outrage.
    Yes, we’ve seen much of it before. And yes, we are counting down the remaining months. But we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power. Otherwise, our own deep cynicism, about the possibility for a President and presidential lawyers to respect legal constraints, itself will threaten the rule of law–and not just for the remaining nine months of this administration, but for years and administrations to come.
    OLC, the office entrusted with making sure the President obeys the law instead here told the President that in fighting the war on terror, he is not bound by the laws Congress has enacted. That Congress lacks the authority to regulate the interrogation and treatment of enemy combatants. . . .
    John Yoo, the memo’s author, has the gall to continue to defend the legal reasoning in this memo, in the face even of Bush administration OLC head Jack Goldsmith’s harsh criticism–and withdrawal–of the memo. Not only that, Yoo attempts to spin the memo’s advice on presidential power as “near boilerplate” . . .
    I know (many of us know) Yoo’s statement to be false. And not merely false, but irresponsibly and dangerously false in a way that impugns OLC’s integrity over time and threatens to undermine public faith in the possibility that any administration can be expected to adhere to the rule of law.
    Far from “near boilerplate,” recall that the last President who took the view that “when the President does it that means that it is not illegal” was forced to resign in disgrace. . . .
    Is it possible John Yoo alone merits our outrage, as some kind of rogue legal advisor? Of course not.
    As Dahlia points out, Bush has not fired anyone responsible for devising the legal arguments that have allowed the Bush administration to act contrary to federal statutes with close to immunity–or for breaking the laws. In fact, the ones at Justice who didn’t last are the officials (like Goldsmith) who dared to say “no” to the President-which, by the way, is OLC’s core job description. . . .
    The correct response to all this? Marty has several good suggestions to start. And outrage. Directed where it belongs: at President Bush, as well as his lawyers.

  20. Whoops, joke name from another thread.

    Pretty good though, huh?

    Check out Leon Panetta, the new CIA Director, on torture:

    http://www.democrats.com/cia-director-leon-panetta-opposes-torture

    Along with the DNI nominee, this is a team put together for the purpose of rooting torture and lawlessness out of the American security apparatus.

    People – all of the Republicans, and some of the Democratic establishment – are going to howl. Especially the Bush admin political leaders, who are the most.

    Fuck ’em.

    Elections have consequences.

    No torture.

  21. “The President does not have unilateral power to make treaties, he still needs Congress approval.”

    Even short of making treaties, the President doesn’t even have the sole power, outside of a recess appt., to put in place his own people to carry out his policies without the consent of Congress. “Consent” seems to me to be a designator of power/authority/what have you when determining who has what, and exactly how much, power.

  22. I’m all for stopping torture, but Panetta isn’t the first guy I’d pick to do that, since he has no experience whatsoever in intelligence. Outsiders usually have foreign policy or military experience at least. No, I think this is more proof that Obama thinks that cloning the Clinton administration is a good idea. It isn’t.

  23. Actually, I’ve learned a lot about that question in the past 24 hours. The White House Chief of Staff serves on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council, has a top security clearance, administers the intelligence budget, and is part of every situation-room meeting.

    The fact that he doesn’t have long-term personal and institutional loyalities to people who’s come up through the ranks to hold positions of authority in such a compromised agency seems to me to be a feature, not a bug.

  24. But how ’bout that Dawn Johnson? Not only dissenting from Yoo’s torture memos, but getting outraged and demanding that others be outraged, too?

    Diane Feinswine is pissed off. Good.

  25. “”””Even short of making treaties, the President doesn’t even have the sole power, outside of a recess appt.,””””

    They can’t get that one right either.

    “The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session. ”

    A President can make that appointment only if the vacancy occured during the recess. Bush has made unconstitutional appointments, but who are you going to call.

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