Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's the Matter With Yoo?

The fact that I had to read about it elsewhere is perhaps most telling of all.

The editorial/op-ed section used to be the first stop on my daily perusal of the paper, which I read front-to-back (other than the sports section). No more. In fact, I no longer read the opinion pages of the Inquirer -- what I now not-so-affectionately refer to as the "Conservative Corner" of the paper.

In a recent piece by Steven Reynolds on Why the Philadelphia Inquirer is in Bankruptcy and its hiring of Rick Santorum as a columnist (coincidence? I think not), I commented:

Not to mention that Philly is a strongly Democratic town & the editorial page is now a GOP rag (I stopped reading it a while ago). Santorum, Krauthammer & Smerconish on the same masthead makes one think of the Washington (”Moonie”) Times, not the Inky.

[Brian] Tierney is supposedly trying to appeal to the suburbanites who were turned off by the “liberal bent” of the Inky, but he misunderstands that most don’t hold his hard right views. What’s particularly ironic about the choice of Santorum is that he was mainly defeated because the republicans in SE PA rejected his brand of conservationism. And, of course, it doesn’t help that he can’t express a complete thought in a rational manner.

Despite that, I was still surprised by the most recent addition to the Conservative Corner -- none other than Mr. Torture himself, John Yoo.

As Will Bunch reveals in his AttyTood blog, Inquirer defends the indefensible: A monthly column by torture architect John Yoo:

By late last year, the world already knew a great deal about John Yoo, the Philadelphia native and conservative legal scholar whose tenure in the Bush administration as a top Justice Department lawyer lies at the root of the period of greatest peril to the U.S. Constitution in modern memory. It was widely known in 2008, for example, that Yoo had argued for presidential powers far beyond anything either real or implied in the Constitution -- that the commander-in-chief could trample the powers of Congress or a free press in an endless undeclared war, or that the 4th Amendment barring unreasonable search and seizure didn't apply in fighting what Yoo called domestic terrorism.

Most famously, Yoo was known as the author of the infamous "torture memos" that in 2002 and 2003 gave the Bush and Cheney the legal cover to violate the human rights of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, based on the now mostly ridiculed claim that international and U.S. laws against such torture practices did not apply. Working closely with Dick Cheney, Cheney's staff and others, Yoo set into motion the brutal actions that left a deep, indelible stain on the American soul.

Yet none of that was enough to prevent my colleagues upstairs at the Philadelphia Inquirer -- with none of the fanfare that might normally accompany such a move -- to sign a contract with Yoo in late 2008 to give him a regular monthly column.

* * * *

Because Yoo's working arrangement with the Inquirer was never formally announced, even people who work here at 400 North Broad Street, the home of the Daily News and Inquirer,weren't immediately aware (myself included)that Yoo was now a regular columnist, joining an increasingly rightward-tilting lineup that also includes the likes ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (at $1,750 a pop), Michael Smerconish, a moderate Republican who is also a forceful advocate for torture, Kevin Ferris and others.
I've already written about the what's the matter with Yoo many times in the past, including a riff on an earlier op-ed piece, Yoo What?, in which Yoo audaciously argued that the Supreme Court exceeded its authority by deciding issues of constitutional import in a manner that did not give sufficient weight to the President -- or even Congress. Of course, I'm sure he'd concede the error of his ways, now that there's a President of a different color in the House (that is, blue rather than red, of course). See also, The Horror of Yoo and Yoo Who.

Yoo's latest dribble for the Inky is to echo the latest GOP talking point, that "empathy" is not a qualification for the Supreme Court. John Yoo Argues for Neutrality, Needs Empathy. According to Orin Hatch, empathy is Code for activist. I realize that empathy is not a word in the conservative vocabulary. Not surprisingly, the Republicans believe that you have to be cold, cruel and souless in order to serve on the Court (think Thomas, Scalia and Alito).

Jonathan Valania of Phawker also has a compendium of opinion on the Inquirer's hiring of Yoo, HECKUVA JOB TIERNEY: Why Is THIS Man Bloviating About Supreme Court Replacements In The Inquirer?. As he says:
First Santorum, now Yoo. Increasingly, the Inquirer’s editorial page has become the place where the last eight years go to die. What’s next? Replacing Craig LaBan with Dick Cheney? Tom DeLay’s pitbull movie reviews? Karl Rove reviving the Marley & Me franchise?
One good thing. Yoo doesn't need a law license to write his discredited opinions on the law, so if Pennsylvania were to disbar him, as has apparently been recommended by the report for the DOJ on torture, he could still pontificate to the readers of the Inky, who appear to be matching the numbers of the GOP itself -- an ever downward spiral.

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