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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Yoo Dirty Rat

Coming in tomorrow's NYT Mag: a Q & A with John Yoo, author of that famed "torture memos," now teaching at Berkeley, writing a column for the Philly Inquirer (?), and author of a new book on a subject he knows something about: power grabs by U.S. presidents. He opens by naming Lincoln as the worst for that. Asked about Bush, he simply says that the framers of the Constitution wanted the president's power to grow and change "based on circumstances."

Does he regret writing the torture memos? "No. I had to write them. It was my job. As a lawyer, I had a client. The client needed a legal question answered." Reminded by Deborah Solomon that as DOJ lawyer his top job was to serve the people, he admits that it is true but "if there's a conflict between the president and the Congress, then you have to pick one or the other." Still, he says he's never met Bush, or Cheney.

On Berkeley he compares himself to West Berlin surrounded by communist East Berlin. "There are probably more Communists in Berkeley than any other town in America," he explains, then adds lamely, "but I think of them more as lovers of Birkenstocks than Marx." Yoo says he's been a conservative since he was a kid in the Jimmy Carter years. But he's so clueless about his parents--two psychiatrists--he can't even say if they are psychoanalysts or not: "I don't actually know that much about their work." He adds: "I deny I am in denial." On torture, too?

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