John Yoo

Obama Is Guilty of Executive Overreach, Says Lawyer Who Authored Bush Torture Memos

John Yoo thinks the president should have virtually limitless war-making powers.


John Yoo at CPAC 2017

At the Conservative Political Action Conference today, former George W. Bush administration lawyer John Yoo led a breakout session to promote his new book, Liberty's Nemesis

Yoo criticized in no uncertain terms "the inexorable growth of the administrative state" under President Obama. "One thing that should be for certain is that we all believe in narrowing the size of the federal government," he said. "The whole point of our Constitution is to keep limits on the government so we have space for our individual liberty."

That's a fine critique. I don't disagree in the slightest that Washington under Obama has grown bloated, or that bureaucrats in the various federal agencies have been given far too much authority to draft "rules" that function as laws no one ever had the chance to vote on.

Still, it's jarring to hear those arguments coming from someone best known for arguing that the Commander in Chief does possess broad powers, including the right to unilaterally send American troops into combat and the right to make use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Hypocritical? Yoo doesn't think so. When an audience member brought up the War Powers Resolution—a law that was intended to rein in the executive's authority to wage war without a declaration from Congress but that presidents have been happily ignoring for decades—Yoo drew a bright-line distinction between foreign affairs, on which he said the Framers wanted presidents "to act with energy and vigorousness," and domestic affiars, on which "they expected the president's main job to be to take care that the laws passed by Congress are faithfully executed."

Except, that is, the laws Congress passes specifically to restrain a president's war-making abilities—those laws he apparently doesn't think need to be respected. "I think the War Powers [Resolution] is a very bad law," he said. "It should be overhauled."