Philly Inquirer Hires John Yoo as Columnist

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 11:25 am

Well, we knew things were bad for newspapers these days, but this is a really sad sign:  The Philadelphia Inquirer has hired John Yoo — the notorious former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer and architect of the “torture memos” that not only narrowed the definition of torture to exclude waterboarding and most other widely recognized forms of torture, but justified torture (by his own definition) and suspension of the Bill of Rights on U.S. soil — to be a regular columnist for the paper.

As Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News puts it:

The Inquirer thus handed Yoo a loud megaphone on what was once a hallowed piece of real estate in American journalism — to write on the very subjects that have now led Justice Department investigators to reportedly recommend disbarment proceedings against Yoo and has led international prosecutors as well as millions of politically engaged Americans to consider the Episcopal Academy graduate worthy of charging with war crimes.

Here’s the Inquirer editorial page editor’s response:

John Yoo has written freelance commentaries for The Inquirer since 2005, however he entered into a contract to write a monthly column in late 2008. I won’t discuss the compensation of anyone who writes for us. Of course, we know more about Mr. Yoo’s actions in the Justice Department now than we did at the time we contracted him. But we did not blindly enter into our agreement. He’s a Philadelphian, and very knowledgeable about the legal subjects he discusses in his commentaries. Our readers have been able to get directly from Mr. Yoo his thoughts on a number of subjects concerning law and the courts, including measures taken by the White House post-9/11. That has promoted further discourse, which is the objective of newspaper commentary.

Uh, maybe. But I tend to agree with Bunch on this:

[W]hile promoting public discourse is a goal of newspaper commentary, it should not be the main objective. The higher calling for an American newspaper should be promoting and maintaining our sometimes fragile democracy, the very thing that Yoo and his band of torture advocates very nearly shredded in a few short years. Quite simply, by handing Yoo a regularly scheduled platform for his viewpoint, the Inquirer is telling its readers that Yoo’s ideas — especially that torture is not a crime against the very essence of America — are acceptable.

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