Tuesday, July 24, 2007

John Yoo, Partisan Scumbag

At Greenwald's digs.

All arguments are possible once you leave the reality-based community...


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The corollary is that only certain arguments are allowed within the "reality based" community, which makes its "reality" self-defining. Sweet.

Is there another side to this or any other question?

Not if they can help it.

4:32 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

What do you mean by that, Tom?

Also, holy F, it's Tom.

8:45 AM  
Blogger The Dark Avenger said...

TVD, the point is that Yoo was against Clintons' assertion of executive privilege in 1998, but is for aWols' using it in 2007 to escape any Congressional oversight/scrutiny of his own activities.

Try to think about that without getting a headache, or complaining that we're not providing you the feedback you're looking for, etc.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Still with the pejorative nicknames, and "we" is still creepy.

The hypocrisy game is boring; people and politics are almost universally disappointing, and the irony is that anyone who defended Clinton's invocation of executive privilege who's having a cow about W now has put the shoe on the other foot themselves.

Yoo's argument that Clinton was using executive privilege to conceal a personal wrongdoing and not the prerogatives of the executive branch is beyond Greenwald, it seems. Ad hom on Yoo will have to do.

My point was in reference to the second sentence in WS' post, that any argument outside the "reality-based" community is somehow unworthy. The link to Patterico's blog is probative: Patterico explores both sides (yes, there's more than one), with facts and caselaw, and a full respect for dissent, as he hunts down and gives full exposure to someone with an opposing opinion. And quite civilly, in contradistinction to Greenwald of the "reality-based" community. The contrast is stark.

And as Patterico's correspondent allows, the issue of executive privilege remains a rather open field: historically, neither congress nor the executive have taken it to the mat, preferring a gray area. What little Supreme Court caselaw exists tends to give privilege wide latitude, and it seems to be quite applicable here.

But mileage may vary and good men can disagree, as there is less fact than opinion to be found on the subject. Acknowledging that is the true reality base.

And even if John Yoo is a hypocrite, that proves nothing.

2:04 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

You know, I read the article by Patterico, but, and maybe this is just my ignorance of our government, if the Executive Branch is solely responsible for the decision about whether or not to pursue criminal investigation, the argument is therefore that Congress should never investigate criminal wrongdoings unless it is through the process of impeachment, which is a special power granted to Congress?

If that's so, then the president and his party can effectively do what they want so long as they retain enough members in Congress to prevent impeachment from succeeding. Fantastic.

Is Patterico wrong? All Congress can do is impeach, and with a partisan Republican half of the senate, there's no way to successfully do so.

So, for a guide on how to take over America, all you need is a rank-and-file party to take slightly more than a third of the Senate and have a Presidential candidate elected. Now, there's nothing that can be done?

34 people (33 senators and a president) can take over the entire government? Sounds like the checks and balances aren't so good after all, no?

3:47 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I'm probably a bit too hasty there, because Congress has other powers that it could use - such as the power of the purse. As Kleiman put it, they could just strip all the funding from the White House's staff salaries and do all sorts of other things to make life tough for the president and his cronies.

I guess the real point of all of this, though, and this should be emphasized, is that Congress is a bunch of inept pansies (which we already knew) who are nevertheless pursuing the enforcement of the correct assertion that Bush and his administration are lying scumbags.

They're just doing it all wrong.

I think that's what should be gathered from this input, and if there's no further information that would prove Patterico wrong, then I think thanks should be to Tom for providing the input reinforcing the fact that the Senate basically sucks at doing their job effectively.

4:15 PM  
Blogger The Dark Avenger said...

If an advocate took two different positions on a given issue at different times, perhaps some of us in the 'creepy' reality-based community wouldn't be out of place to suggest that input, sincere or hypocritical, would be of little use coming from said advocate on the issue.

Sorry to give you a frisson by inadvertently using a 'trigger word'.

5:14 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I think that this much is clear:
1) John Yoo is a partison scumbag.

2) Tom is wrong about the reality-based community. I see no evidence to believe his assertions, and he probably has none.

3) It looks like Tom is correct when it comes to Congress having no power to force the Department of Justice to pursue an action - maybe someone has evidence to the contrary, but I know of none now.

4) Regardless of any of this, none of this proves Gonzales/Bush Administration is free of wrongdoing, it just seems to indicate that Congress can't do anything about it aside from impeachment, and that they're not doing their job well in pursuing the current course of action.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, at least now we're aware there's another side, and a legitimate one, if still unpersuasive to some. That was my primary purpose for popping up for another round of Wack-a-Mole on the conservative.

And yes, the GOP, by election, still has one branch and slightly under half of the other. That's still a constitutional majority, especially since neither branch is interested in a showdown at the Supreme Court, the third.

That 2/3 of one branch can bring down the other is enough check-and-balance for me. Any more jiggling of the math would be destabilizing. We forget that the US is one of the oldest governments in the world, after all, and the math of this is one very good reason.

As for 1), that's the politics of personal destruction. They're all partisan scumbags. Not interested. For 2), that Obama, et al., would rather face Ahmadinejad than Brit Hume is all the evidence we need. (The GOP fearlessly faced the feckless nincompoop Chris Matthews.)

Thank you for 3), and until I hear something substantive, you can't 4) prove a negative.

And "we" is creepy because it implies a monolith of thought. But it appears accurate in this case.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


1. Nice to hear from you!

2. Boy, it's hard to believe how wrong you are about this!

Too tired to give the details now...but an exercise for the reader tonight:

Explain why what Tom says is a corollary of what I say is not, in fact, a corollary of what I say.

8:40 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

In response to Winston's 2:

Oh, I thought we were just going to gloss over the fact that what Tom said had nothing to do with your post. Clearly a reference to whether or not Congress can force the Department of Justice to pursue a case has nothing to do with John Yoo being a partisan scumbag.

That's why I clearly stated in my summary of what's gone on (first and foremost in statement number 1) that John Yoo remains a partisan scumbag.

I was just going to get what I could that seemed reasonable out of what he said anyway.

Honestly, I've had little time to contemplate the governmental ramifications of a situation in which Congress is attempting to conduct an investigation of the person who would be responsible for assisting Congress in the investigation by enforcing the laws such as a Contempt of Congress charge.

I figured I'd just see what anyone had to say in response to Tom's post, despite the fact that it's totally irrelevant to this thread.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Arguing about arguing again. [sigh]

9:05 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

? The point, Tom, is that you brought up an article that centered around whether or not executive privilege can prevent the questioning of administration officials and whether or not Congress may mandate that the executive branch prosecute said official for failure to appear before Congress.

This has nothing to do with Winston's article, which demonstrates that John Yoo is a hypocrite, holding whatever position is most beneficial for his party of choice.

You said that "The corollary is that only certain arguments are allowed within the 'reality based' community". That was supposed to be a corollary to Winston's claim that John Yoo is a partisan bastard.

A corollary is a proposition inferred immediately from a proved proposition with little or no additional proof.

So, your claim was that Winston says John Yoo is a partisan bastard, and that a proposition inferred immediately from that proposition is that only certain views of issues are permitted, and then, as proof, cited an article that proposed a view about a completely separate issue.

So..that's pretty clear cut..


9:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

All arguments are possible once you leave the reality-based community...

...including true ones, and true ones that are impossible to offer inside its self-imposed walls unless a barbarian like me scales them.

Not that true arguments can't be found within the reality-based community, but this claims a monopoly. Sorta like all those dogmatists none of "we" can stand, claiming a monopoly on the truth. Corollary my ass, WS, and I send that with love.

As for John Yoo, no one, not Greenwald or any of "us" addressed his actual argument, that there's a difference between invoking executive privilege over personal misdoings and for those that (admittedly might) occur in the course of one's duties in the executive branch. I'm not in the mood to defend John Yoo as a person because I have no idea what's in his heart, but his argument has weight.

Of course, since the Democrats control only Congress, we are all suddenly "concerned" about the executive branch, and its every offense is a capital crime. Off with their heads.

But if the executive branch "oversaw" the legislature, there would be damned few of those bastards left---we might all agree that that's a fact.

And in fact, already have, see above...

2:37 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"and true ones that are impossible to offer inside its self-imposed walls unless a barbarian like me scales them.

Not that true arguments can't be found within the reality-based community"

Well now, that seems about as contradictory as it gets.

"Corollary my ass, WS, and I send that with love."

You know, USUALLY, if someone were to say "Corollary my ass, WS", one would think that WS were the one proposing a false corollary, as the "my ass" portion of that usually is something like saying "bullshit"..but you are apparently calling bullshit on yourself, since you proposed the corollary, so I have no idea what you're talking about.

"As for John Yoo, no one, not Greenwald or any of "us" addressed his actual argument, that there's a difference between invoking executive privilege over personal misdoings and for those that (admittedly might) occur in the course of one's duties in the executive branch"

But one of the points is that Yoo was fully ready to say, based on the evidence, that Clinton had done something wrong and thus to challenge his use of executive privilege in order to cover up the wrongdoing.

Now, however, when it's painfully obvious that Bush and his cronies are using executive privilege to cover up wrongdoing, Yoo leaps to their defense.

You say his argument is "there's a difference between invoking executive privilege over personal misdoings and for those that (admittedly might) occur in the course of one's duties in the executive branch", but notice how easily that could be applied to the defense of Clinton and as a criticism of Bush. Both are possible if you want to be equally blind about reality - that Clinton used executive privilege to stifle an investigation into an adultery charge, and that Bush is using it to stifle an investigation into political wrongdoing.

So, John Yoo is only arguing at his convenience, defending the same thing (using executive privilege to cover up wrondoing) he attacked when it's used by Republicans instead of Democrats.

So that's why he's a partisan bastard.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Argh...this is going to take awhile...

Which raises a meta-level issue that's been puzzling me lately...

Now, when our country faces a threat from an executive branch running amok--a branch which seems to be determined to turn the country into something like a dictatorship--and when a relatively few die-hard defenders of this administration continue to defend the indefensible...what should we do?

I DO intend to address the substance of your argument here, Tom (and argument that I find fatally flawed, but not entirely without merit)...but having just woken up, I'm rather more interested in the question: SHOULD I, really?

I mean...c'mon, Tom. You're a fairly partisan partisan who is NOT going to stop defending Bush pretty much no matter what. Given the obviousness of the threat the the country now faces from these criminals, shouldn't we be doing something that's more likely to have real effects?

That is, might it not actually be wrong for us to spend our time and energy repeatedly responding in detail to the tortured defenses of Bush partisans?

To put the question generally, which of the following is true:

1. We have an intellectual responsibility to answer every argument, even long after the conclusion is clear.


2. After a conclusion becomes sufficiently clear, we are entitled to ignore further objections to the conclusion


I think that liberals like me have an inclination to think that 2 is true. That's why I wasted years of my life arguing against creationists. To absolutely no effect. They were never discussing the issue honestly, they never took anything I said to heart, and I never learned a single thing from them.

Now, I think Tom honestly believes what he's saying--and, again, I think he's got one good point in there about Yoo's point--but from long experience I've learned that, when it comes to Bush, he's operating rather like creationists do (ignore the avalanche of evidence against you, exaggerate the few bits of evidence on your side, never, ever admit when your side is wrong, no matter how obvious that might be, etc.)

Partially as a consequence of my experience with creationists, I came to realize that 1 is true...though, of course, fraught with it's own obvious perils.

I'm still inclined to think that ignoring arguments on the other side is very, very dangerous, and one of the main source of human error. So I advocate calling a case provisionally closed and moving on ONLY in fairly extreme cases.

But we currently face a fairly extreme case.

The only question for us now is: what should we do given that the administration is a disaster, and is running amok? Impeachment? Run out the clock? Something else?

Whether or not this administration is a disaster and is running amok is...well, I'm inclined to think that reasonable people should admit that that issue's settled.

One test of that conclusion for liberals: would you tolerate a Democratic president acting in these ways?

That's an easy question for me to answer: no way in hell.

So, while we might want to discuss the question 'is John Yoo a scumbag?' in more detail just for fun, we probably shouldn't let that distract us from the bigger question: what can we as ordinary citizens do to save our democracy in this time of crisis?

8:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

"Executive privilege is used by the President and the executive branch to shield presidential communications, advice, and national security information from disclosure in judicial proceedings, congressional investigations and other arenas. While the proper scope of executive privilege is the subject of much debate, at a minimum, it covers presidential communications, and may also protect the decision-making, or deliberative process, of the executive branch in general.

Courts have recognized a “presumptive privilege” for presidential communications that is grounded in “a President’s generalized interest in confidentiality” and is viewed as important to preserving the candor of presidential advisors and protecting the freedom of the president and his advisors to “explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately.” U. S. v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 708, 711 (1974); In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d 729, 743 (D.C. Cir. 1997). This privilege is “inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution” and “flow[s] from the nature of enumerated powers” of the President. Id., 418 U.S. at 705; 121 F.3d at 743.

According to a recent D.C. Circuit case, “[t]he President can invoke the privilege when asked to produce documents or other materials that reflect Presidential decision making and deliberations and that the President believes should remain confidential.” Id., 121 F.3d at 744. As to the scope of this privilege, the court found, in the context of the criminal proceeding, it to cover “communications made by presidential advisers in the course of preparing advice for the President, . . . even when these communications are not made directly to the President.”

---Pat Leahy (D-VT), partisan scumbag

4:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

O.k., to show that Tom is wrong:

I wrote:
(A) "All arguments are possible once you leave the reality-based community..."

In response, Tom wrote:

(B)"The corollary is that only certain arguments are allowed within the "reality based" community, which makes its "reality" self-defining."

Now, I'm not really sure what B means--in particular the part about how something "makes its 'reality' self-defining." For one thing, I'm not sure what 'self-defining' means... Yet I persevere...

Note that B is not a corollary of A. In fact, it isn't even close.

First, let's be clear that A is largely snark--so it's rather hard to assign any very definite proposition to it. I suppose what I meant was something like:

(C) "once you give up the claim that reality place restrictions on our thinking you can pretty much say anything you want."

That's at least the most natural interpretation of A. So if C is the best interpretation of A, what we really want to know is: is B a corollary of C?

Answer: obviously not. B's a different point entirely.

Perhaps only certain arguments are allowed in "the reality-based community." Depends on what RBC means here. Does it mean something like "those who recognize that reality constrains their thinking" or something like that? Or does he mean liberals? (There's significant but, sadly, imperfect overlap b/w the two groups.)

Are only certain arguments allowed in the RBC in the first sense? Well, none are disallowed in the sense of being censored...but many are ruled out b/c they're stupid or invalid. Nothing wrong with that.

Are only certain arguments allowed in the RBC in the second sense? Well, smart liberals rule out bad arguments...bad liberals often rule out good ones...and really bad ones sometimes even rule out good arguments in the sense that they simply won't listen to them.

The long and the short of it:

To point out that:

(1) Our thinking ought to conform to reality

is IN NO WAY to say anything that entails or suggests that:

(2) Only certain arguments are allowed (in the sense of given a hearing) among those who recognize that our thinking ought to conform to reality.

Although it IS, as an independent matter--and certainly no corollary of (A) or (1)--that reasonable people will rule certain very bad arguments out of court.

And there's nothing in either (A) or (1) that in any way entails or suggests that anything is "self-defining". That just comes out of the blue.

So Tom's wrong about all that.

On the other hand, the arguments he linked to responding to Greenwald is really, really interesting.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, anything to help the RBC. Looks like Patterico is now part of it. I'll email him the good news. You take Greenwald.

8:40 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

TVD is doing us a favor. He's providing a proof of possibility by instance. Here's one person who has clearly left reality behind and can make any argument, no matter how sophitical, appear to have structure. And that's quite a Wilberforcean accomplishment (Bp. Wilberforce, the opponent of T.H. Huxley).

And a note on first person plural pronouns. Sometimes they're not a creepy conspiracy. Sometimes they simply stand in for a convenient group that includes the speaker of the pronoun.

Oh, is this arguing about arguing? Sorry, I thought you brought it up, TVD.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I like the way you throw little tantrums while pretending to be civil, Tom. But, really: why not either be genuinely civil or genuinely hostile?

To tell the truth, I'm not actually a big Greenwald fan, and thought that the particular post here was rather sloppy.

Which doesn't mean that Yoo isn't a partisan scumbag, of course.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And Pat Leahy, of course.

3:45 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...


I think this is hilarious - I JUST posted on the other thread that all you do in response to allegations that Republicans suck is say "Well, SO DO DEMOCRATS!"

...so here you are..doing exactly that.

The Must Dubious Catch - hosted by
Tom Van Dyke: Red Herring Fisherman Extaordinaire

10:55 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Leahy is entirely germane to the discussion of executive privilege, and while John Yoo is merely a law professor, Leahy is a powerful elected official. Blue herring.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

And Leahy is relevant...how?

9:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

On both the issues of exectuive privilege and partisan scumbags. Take your pick.

4:42 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

WS: "John Yoo is a partisan scumbag."

Tom: "So is Pat Leahy."

That is irrelevant to whether or not John Yoo is a partisan scumbag. Why did you bring it up?

4:54 PM  

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