Notorious UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo has proven once again this week that he’s a partisan huckster and an academic fraud. Throughout much of the past decade, Yoo staked his academic and legal reputation on the argument that the US Constitution calls for a powerful presidency. While on sabbatical as a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department, Yoo even went so far as to say that the Constitution gave the president the power to ignore US and international law and order that suspected terrorists be tortured.
In fact, Bush pointed to Yoo’s so-called torture memo in 2002 as his legal justification for ordering the harsh and abusive treatment of prisoners. Ultimately, however, an embarrassed Bush Justice Department rescinded Yoo’s memo and investigated him for misconduct because it was so extreme. In addition, UC Berkeley officials have claimed that they cannot investigate Yoo for misconduct because the professor was merely expressing his legal opinion about the strong power of the presidency — an argument that the Justice Department also made when it decided to not recommend that Yoo be disbarred.
But now, in an op-ed penned this week for the Wall Street Journal, Yoo reveals that he apparently only believes in a strong presidency when the White House is occupied by a Republican. Yoo, apparently with a straight face, wrote that President Obama is on the cusp of overstepping his presidential authority, because he is considering an executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their campaign contributions. Yes, you read that right. Republican presidents can torture, according to the tenured Cal prof, but Democratic ones can’t require transparency from contractors who get taxpayer money.
This is not the first time, however, that Yoo has displayed his partisan hucksterism. During the 1990s, he argued that President Clinton had overstepped his presidential authority, too, even though Clinton came nowhere near to ignoring US and international law as Bush did.
So will UC Berkeley finally do anything about a professor who essentially abandons his legal opinions, and effectively refutes his own work? Don’t count on it.