John Yoo Defends Torture: John Yoo's Crisis and Command Argues That a Correct Interpretation of the Constitution Allows Presidents Unlimited Powers in Times of Emergency. He Is in Grave Error
Eddlem, Thomas R., The New American
John Yoo's Crisis and Command is a turgid, 524-page love letter to an all-powerful Presidency generally and to dictatorship specifically. His theme? More Caesar, less Senate.
Infamous for penning the 'Torture Memos" under the Bush administration, where he justified torture under the Bush administration by virtually defining torture out of existence, Yoo's book contends presidential powers are unlimited: "The executive was, rather, the servant of necessity, bound to act in accordance with, in the absence of, or in extraordinary emergencies, in defense of the republic, even contrary to regularly constituted law." Yes, you read that right. Yoo says the President is above the law.
Yoo criticizes Thomas Jefferson and all who say that the power of the presidency has limits under the U.S. Constitution. The "great" Presidents, Yoo contends, are those who recognize they possess unlimited power, use it, and get away with it politically. Thus he applauds all of the worst excesses of the "great" Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt, from Roosevelt's court-packing scheme and internment of Japanese during World War II to Lincoln's arrest of Congressmen and newspaper editors who disagreed with him during the Civil War. Because a President's powers are unlimited, a "national emergency" of any kind justifies indefinite detention of Japanese, denial of trial rights to anyone (including American citizens), torture, and warrantless wiretapping. Would the President's power even extend to the execution of masses of minorities without trial--say, Japanese-Americans during World War II--if the President thinks it's needed? Yoo doesn't say.
Though this pretty much defines the concept of dictatorship, Yoo claims he's got Founding Fathers who will back him up. He doesn't, but it is a bit of fun to look a little further into his blatant dishonesty. Yoo repeated a quote (ad nauseam, actually) from Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist, No. 23, as justification for his unlimited presidential power theory. In The Federalist. No. 23, Hamilton says.
It is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.
To Yoo, this passage vindicates Presidents who assume unlimited power to command the nation in war, or whatever "emergency" he thinks the nation needs remedied. After all, the President is the "commander-in-chief."
It sounds convincing until you notice that Federalist No. 23 doesn't even mention the President. The full context of the quote Yoo employs so liberally throughout the book is this:
The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.
All those powers "without limitation" listed in the first sentence of Hamilton's Federalist essay above are specifically and exclusively delegated to the Congress by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, not the President. …