Whatsa Matta Yoo?

A Justice Deparment lawyer, John Yoo (now a law professor at Berkeley–that’s liberal academia for you), put together a legal memo in 2003 that amounted to a justification of the President’s right to torture people in his capacity as Commander in Chief in time of war.  Here’s a critical passage in that argument:

As we have made clear in other opinions involving the war against al Qaeda, the Nation’s right to self-defense has been triggered by the events of September 11. If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions. This national and international version of the right to self-defense could supplement and bolster the government defendant’s individual right.

One reason you torture someone is to discover information (whether that information is any good is another matter).  You might also torture someone for fun or for punishment.  But the relevant sense of torture for this memo is the former–torture for information about the future.  Yoo argues that if you put "information discovery" under the broader rubric of self-defense, then you can torture anyone at any time, so long as you are attempting to "prevent future attacks" (which would probably characterize any interrogation after all).

That seems to be a rather vague standard, as it could be invoked to justify any instance of interrogation torture.  But the weird thing here is that Yoo would construe this national right of self-defense (which applies I would guess to war) as applicable to individual torturers.  Any particular defendant who torturers a suspect for information, you see, is merely engaging in a completely justifiable act of personal self-defense.


Impartial birth abortion

Here’s Gerson today:

Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr.’s endorsement of Barack Obama last week — "I
believe in this guy like I’ve never believed in a candidate in my life"
— recalled another dramatic moment in Democratic politics. In the
summer of 1992, as Bill Clinton solidified his control over the Democratic Party,
Robert P. Casey Sr., the senator’s father, was banned from speaking to
the Democratic convention for the heresy of being pro-life.

The elder Casey (now deceased) was then the governor of Pennsylvania
— one of the most prominent elected Democrats in the country. He was
an economic progressive in the Roosevelt tradition. But his Irish
Catholic conscience led him to oppose abortion. So the Clintons chose
to humiliate him. It was a sign and a warning of much mean-spirited
pettiness to come.

The younger Casey, no doubt, is a sincere fan of Obama. He also must have found it satisfying to help along the cycle of political justice.

But by Casey’s father’s standard of social justice for the unborn, Obama is badly lacking.

The first part is just false (as many have demonstrated).  Casey did not endorse the democratic candidates and so was not invited to speak at the podium.  Later Gerson–some Christian he–goes on to distort a remark of Diane Feinstein.  Gerson writes:

These trends reached their logical culmination during a congressional
debate on partial-birth abortion in 1999. When Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer was pressed to affirm that she opposed the medical killing of children after
birth, she refused to commit, saying that children deserve legal
protection only "when you bring your baby home." It was unclear whether
this included the car trip.

Nice one, Gerson.  Here’s what Feinstein actually said:

I would make this statement: That this Constitution, as it
currently is — some of you want to amend it to say that life begins at
conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born — and
there is no such thing as partial-birth — the baby belongs to your family and
has all the rights. But I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a
fetus is a person, which I know you would.

Gerson’s remark is clearly distorted.  Dear Mr. Gerson, someone once said the truth will set you free.

The last part, "social justice for the unborn," is curious for another reason.  Obama is pro-choice.  As a result, he doesn’t think the unborn are the subjects of justice, as Gerson obviously does.  Gerson goes on to argue:

But Obama’s record on abortion is extreme. He opposed the ban on
partial-birth abortion — a practice a fellow Democrat, the late Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, once called "too close to infanticide." Obama
strongly criticized the Supreme Court decision upholding the
partial-birth ban. In the Illinois state Senate, he opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion. And now Obama has oddly claimed that he would not want his daughters to be "punished with a baby" because of a crisis
pregnancy — hardly a welcoming attitude toward new life.

Obama doesn’t have a "welcoming attitude" (what that means baffles) toward new life because he’s pro-choice (and it turns out, by the way, that Gerson twisted Obama’s words–that’s three!).  Gerson’s argument doesn’t do anything other than point out that Obama is pro-choice.  But Gerson takes his having pointed this out as some kind of reason to think Obama is wrong.  Maybe Obama’s view is wrong–but it’s not wrong because he holds  it. 

Cotton club

Lou Dobbs, famous for his demagoguery on immigration (among other subjects), turns to the subject of race.  In so doing he illustrates how the red herring fallacy works.  Here’s a (scrubbed) transcript of his remarks on CNN:

BLITZER: Let’s check in with Lou. He has a show coming up in an hour. I
want to pick his brain on some intriguing comments from Condoleezza
Rice involving race in our country.

You saw what she said.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": I saw what she said. That the
United States has a birth defect on the issue of race. I think it’s
really unfortunate that Secretary of State Rice believes as she does.

The fact is most Americans don’t have a problem talking about race.

What we have is a problem of talking about race without fearing
recrimination and distortion and someone using whatever comments are
made for their own purposes. Usually political purposes.

The reality is, this is the most socially, ethnically, religiously,
racially diverse society on the face of the earth. Wolf, we don’t make
enough of that in the nation media. We listen to some idiot say you
can’t talk about race or there ought to be these responses when you
talk about race or ethnicity and too often, in fact nearly always, we
fail to point out that there is no country on the face of the earth as
progressive, as racially and ethnically diverse as our own.

It’s something for us to be proud of and if any – and to hear a
politician whoever it may be talk about how difficult it is to talk
about race, well the heck with them. We’re living with the issue of
race. We’ve got to be able to talk about it and I can guarantee you
this, not a single one of these cotton, these just ridiculous politicians should be
the moderator on the issue of race. We have to have a far better
discussion than that.

BLITZER: Lou, we’ll see you back here in one hour. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: You got it. [edited for accuracy]

Let’s get this straight.  First, Condoleezza Rice claims there’s a "birth defect" on the issue of race:

Asked for her views, she told "The Washington Times": "The U.S. has a
hard time dealing with race because of a national birth defect." She
says black and white Americans founded the country together — but
"Europeans by choice and Africans in chains."

If I’m not mistaken that is a historical point about race in American history–and a pretty obvious one at that.  Dobbs responds (1) by griping about politically charged discussions of race [not the issue at all] and (2), by pointing out what a diverse country we live in [again, not the issue].   Both of them are red herrings.  That we live in a diverse society or that some people demagogue on the issue of race (1) no one can dispute and (2) has nothing to do with Rice’s point.

Finally, considering Rice’s other public pronouncements on the issue of race, it’s baffling to see Dobbs react the way he does.  If anything Rice would agree with him.