John Yoo Wins Battle of ‘The Daily Show’

By
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

It’s a testament to Jon Stewart’s extraordinary abilities to speak sensibly in an age of insanity that we expect him to skewer knaves like John Yoo, the former Office of Legal Counsel torture advocate, who appeared on “The Daily Show” last night. Stewart has a great command of the facts and of his medium. Still, maybe it shouldn’t disappoint us to recognize that Yoo skillfully deflected most of Stewart’s assaults.

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Yoo’s being pretty disingenuous here. The August 1, 2002 OLC memo on torture isn’t about perishable circumstances shortly after 9/11. It’s about the scope of executive power — and exclusive, inherent executive power. Yoo tells Stewart that Congress or the courts could rein in a rogue president on his conduct of a war. Yet his consistent view, as expressed in the memo, is that there’s pretty much nothing Congress can do during wartime short of cutting off funding, a politically extreme step.

Maybe people should give Yoo credit for picking his speaking venues.

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Comments

43 Comments

F.H.
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

Unfortunately I don't think anyone ever accused Mr. Yoo of being stupid.


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McE
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

Yes! Why, oh why didn't a comedian do what reporters are supposed to do?

Oh, wait….never mind….


jeffkaye
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

As for “extreme steps”, Congress has cut funds for American military adventures before, most recently in 1974, cutting back much of the funding of the Vietnam War. The result was a North Vietnamese offensive and the fall of the rotten, insufficient South Vietnamese government. All those years of “Vietnamization” and counter-insurgency, and the proposed 2-yr takeover of the South by the North was completed in 55 days.

Even to this day, no one really attributes to Congress the blame for the fall of Saigon, nor should they. Congress did the right thing, ending a military fiasco. And that's what should take place now.

By the way, in comparison to the endless occupation of Iraq, the U.S. was told by Congress to stop all military activities within a few months.

As for the Yoo/Stewart imbroglio, I'm with Spencer's assessment. Who ever expected a comedian to carry their water for them? Besides, Stewart shown before he's nothing but a light-weight when interviewing these types. Consider his dismal interview with Gen. Myers last year.


Michael Goldstein
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

I completely disagree with your take.

I thought that Stewart gently eviscerated Yoo. Yoo was not able to make a cogent case for his thinking. Stewart masterfully kept showing that there was no anchor to Yoo's arguments. The arguments floated along some faux exigencies that could not be supported by facts or history.

For example, Yoo's claim that we terrorism was new to our shores, when in fact, as Stewart pointed out, it was not. Then, Yoo seemed to reach for the scale being the justification. That was how the whole conversation went. It made the architect of America's torture program seem flimsy in his intellectual heft.


liammcg
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

Mr. Ackerman — please nail down John Yoo for a grilling and break him so he bursts into tears and recants. Then come back and critique comedian Jon Stewart for sucking so badly at doing the MSM's job.


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RichNYC
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

I must have watched a different interview. And if we watched the same one, then I must have been the only one paying attention to the actual discussion taking place.

While I agree that Stewart is certainly not the one who should have been tasked to take on the likes of Yoo, he certainly didn't “fail” by any means. Were there questions he could have asked? Certainly. Were there answers from Yoo that Stewart could have challenged? Definitely.

But the true Fail was on Yoo's part. Yoo IS a professional. And yet, he seemed incapable of providing any concrete, cogent answers. Nearly every response was a foggy mumble of words that did little to actually provide any insight to the issue at hand.

Yes, Stewart is not a constitutional lawyer, but it doesn't exclude him (or us) from having the tools necessary to discredit Yoo's answers; that being logic, reason, and a pretty decent grasp of the english language.

I don't have to be a top notch lawyer to see that Yoo was playing the typical tricks used by Bush and his people. That of cherry picking evidence; that of redefining words, and when that definition is questioned, re-redefining it again.

What were Yoo's answers?
Did he ever answer what “War” is? Or why this “War on Terror” is different?
(Other than providing the ridiculous example of 'more were killed on 9/11″)

Did he respond to Stewart's question as to why, if torture is so effective, it's not used universally?

And so on.

Yoo was the one that failed. As did this article.

Cheers


Jesus
Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

haha, washington independent my ass. Total skew on the interview where it was obvious they knew that what they doing was illegal. Charge G.W.B. and Cheney with fraud and hang them both. Haha conservatives, you lose.


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Johnny S
Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 10:19 am

This was a remarkable discussion and I think Stewart and Yoo should be commended for having it. I don't agree with Yoo but playing out this debate is what democracy is all about. If Stewart had just yelled at Yoo for 10 minutes, we would have lost a wonderful conversation of great importance . By all means dig out the extended interview on ComCent's website.


emersonushc13
Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

Instead of torture we should have hugged them, apologized for the existence of the USA and promise we'll put all our women in portable circus tents and kill every jew in the world so they won't have to go through that inconvenience. THEN they would have told us when the dirty bombs are set to go off. Then there will be Peace. Lovely Peace.


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Pingback posted January 13, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

[...] Spencer Ackerman: It’s a testament to Jon Stewart’s extraordinary abilities to speak sensibly in an age of insanity that we expect him to skewer knaves like John Yoo, the former Office of Legal Counsel torture advocate, who appeared on “The Daily Show” last night. Stewart has a great command of the facts and of his medium. Still, maybe it shouldn’t disappoint us to recognize that Yoo skillfully deflected most of Stewart’s assaults. [...]


mantis
Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

Back in your bunker, nutball.


emersonushc13
Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

I live in a lovely apartment within walking distance to the beach in SoCal. I love those nutball things covered in chocolate. I, like you, also believe that the educated and artistic are just darn better than people who don't appreciate their better-ness and correct-itude.

If you want I'll share the math formula that proves god doesn't exist.


TheLastBrainLeft
Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

What Stewart proved last night was that liberals can scream “torture” at each other, but they cannot actually win a debate on the topic with a well informed dissenter. What Yoo did in his capacity as White House legal council was no crime. There WAS no torture.

Give it up already. Direct your indignation at the real evil: terrorism.


costume
Comment posted January 14, 2010 @ 4:49 am

If the executive is committing incredibly terrible acts then why is the act of cutting off funding extreme? It's only extreme in that it requires congress to take an active role in a war. Maybe that's extreme to a bunch of panderers that would rather mouth platitudes without any actual responsibilities but it gives them great influence should they choose to have the balls to exercise it.


bulletpeople
Comment posted January 14, 2010 @ 8:10 am

How dare you respond to impotent rage with wit and grace.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 14, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

Yoo is a coward of the first stripe. One of those who proclaims that our country is sacrosanct, yet is full willing to compromise the ideals upon which is founded. Immediately wanting to be able to do whatever is easiest, instead of what is legal and right.

He's an unrepentant villain and a traitor to the Constitution, and by extension, the United States. He should be tried and hanged alongside those who authorized the torture and illegal activities.

“What does a treaty mean?” Mr. Yoo, it means that it is the law of the land, according to the Constitution. If you want to repeal it, then you can do so, but YOU VIOLATED THE LAW.

Those who claim that liberals are 'defending terrorists' by standing up for the law need to STFU and decide to uphold the law. Morons.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 14, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

Go get waterboarded. Go get put into stress positions. Go be sleep deprived for days on end. Oh, and slapped around, screamed at, not fed, not allowed to go to the bathroom, not allowed to clean yourself, menaced by dogs, and put in a coffin-life box and have stinging insects poured on you. Then tell me there was no torture.

Apparently your brain left a long time ago, because you wish to compromise the law and the ideals of this country because you're afraid of guys who'll blow up their underpants to get to you. You have no standing here.

The fact that Congressional cowards refuse to perform their job of oversight doesn't mean that the law wasn't violated, just as the fact that your brain is still inside your head doesn't mean it's functional, logical, or rational.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 14, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

So every time you're frightened, you immediately compromise ALL your ideals in order to not wet yourself?

What a sad, pathetic coward you must be.


emersonushc13
Comment posted January 15, 2010 @ 10:39 am

Actually, my ideals are to have sympathy for victims and none for victimizers. I know many people live in a world of only shades of gray, but false intellectualism has never appealed to me. Oliver Stone recently said “Hitler is a scapegoat” – moral relativism expressed as nihilism. I don't care if jihadists are fed slowly into wood chippers, rapists castrated or child frickers assigned brutal deaths in jail. As Vladamir Lenin, another of Oliver Stone's misunderstood great men of history once said, “No man, no problem.”

I'm a sad, pathetic coward because I don't care if jihadists are mistreated? Lucy will have to 'splain that one to me, but I'm not coming back to this comment string anymore, so I get the last word before I wet myself because my my ideals are not ideal.


spqnyc
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 12:59 am

wow. you are truly deranged, sir.


spqnyc
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 1:00 am

those who are so quick to accuse others of cowardice are usually cowards themselves.


spqnyc
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 1:03 am

actually Yoo didn't only state that 3,000 people were killed on 9-11. he said that AQ committed an act of war that normally a nation would commit. So, what do you do to fight it?

Also, there were only a few suspects from 2001-2003 who were given extra-legal interrogation methods.

Don't go overboard.


spqnyc
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 1:16 am

ummm, Yoo did point out that while terrorism might not have been mint-condition-new on 9/11, prosecution of a war against terrorism was and the government needed a way to interrogate suspects.

If the government wanted to destroy the Constitution it wouldn't have bothered in asking lawyers like Yoo to come up with guidelines.

Maybe you should watch the entire extended version of the interview they had instead of looking at what was aired.

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/lachlan-markay/201…

you can watch it here. There you will see that Yoo more than held his own.


abusilawa
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

“Actually, my ideals are to have sympathy for victims and none for victimizers.”

I could be wrong, but it doesn't sound like you know much about the reality of fighting jihadism.

How do you characterize someone whose family is wiped out by a JDAM because a brigade-leval analyst made an honest, sincere, but entirely mistaken assumption, based on inaccurate humint, that a terrorist suspect was sleeping in the house?

How do you characterize someone who becomes a jihadist after nine months in Camp Bucca after they're picked up in a sweep but their file gets lost in by the military detention bureaucracy?

How do you characterize a local insurgent leader who makes a pact with al-Qaeda after their brother is gunned down for trying to pass a convoy, but later re-aligns with the Americans when he realizes that al-Qaeda is worse?

Real-life counterinsurgency depends on awareness of “shades of grey” — differences of human experience, changes in people's motivations, and most of all, awareness that there is such a thing as bad intel.

That's one reason, among many others, why it's a bad idea to torture. In a battle for hearts and minds, when you depend on winning the sympathy of the population among which your quarry is hiding, ideals are a force multiplier.


jrc007
Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

Even as Revolutionary War fighters suffered and died on British prison ships in New York harbor, George Washington ordered his soldiers to treat their prisoners humanely. Washington knew what kind of people we are and the values we hold.

Committing torture lowers us to the level of the terrorists, who then use our acts of torture to justify their own. It's a downward spiral of savagery we cannot win.

Treat terrorists like the criminals they are. Gather evidence and convict them in a public trial. Show the world that the rule of law matters to us. Perhaps we can then begin to repair the severe damage done by Bush, Cheney and their sycophants (Yoo, for one, as well as America's favorite sociopath, Karl Rove).


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 17, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

No, you're a coward because you're letting them win. You will gladly compromise the freedom of yourself, your neighbors, your children, and millions of people you don't even know simply to cling to a shred of illusory security.Illegal detention makes our country appear weak, as it is cowardice of the first stripe.. If we can't trust in the evidence provided in order to detain someone, process them legally, and then imprison, execute, or release them according to the outcome, then we don't trust in our process very much, do we? Aren't you satisfied that all those Bush-appointed prosecutors and Federal judges will turn out to have a soft spot for people mistakenly imprisoned?

Many of the accused terrorists and 'enemy combatants' aren't being tried in civilian courts because the government screwed up in detaining them with little to no evidence, and so couldn't prove their case. Hell, even half the tribunals that've been held have resulted in acquittal.

The point is that we were founded as a nation TO BE BETTER THAN THAT, and if you can't see that, and worse, obviously can't believe that, then you should go live in the totalitarian regime you so obviously desire. Saudi Arabia, maybe.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 17, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

It seems more like your understanding of morality, justice and ethics are sorely lacking. If you defend those who are torturers, then you are a villain as well.

My general feeling is that you're a right-wing reactionary dittohead without the rational capacity to understand that this country was founded on the ideal that the law must treat all equally. It is degenerating into law for the rich, which is what troubled many of the founding fathers, which is why 'jury of our peers' is so important.

Uphold the law. Equally, or as near as humanly possible. If that's deranged, you can go back to snorting Rush Limbaugh's oxycontin.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 17, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

That is the most irresponsible, irrational and moronic thing I've seen in a long time. That's like a parent from the Columbine Massacre saying, “Well, my kid wasn't killed, so it's ok to bring an arsenal to school, so long as it's not pointed at my kid!”

The law is the law, fruitcake. If it's illegal for Japanese to torture American soldiers, then it's illegal for us to torture, too. We signed the treaties. Look at the Geneva Convention. Look at the constitution of these here United States. Read how once a treaty is signed, it is the law of the land.

It's like walking up to you in a crowd, shooting you, then having the local police say, “Well, he didn't shoot anyone else, so it's ok.”

Remove your brain from Dick Cheney's mind control device and think once in a while, ok?


disoar
Comment posted January 19, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

John Yoo was asked his opinion as to what is permissible under the Constitution and Treaties and he gave a legal opinion, which was his job. To my knowledge Yoo never tortured anybody nor did he advocate torture. He did not even advocate the use of interrogation techniques described in his memo, he only said that such techniques were legally permissible. The decision whether and when to use these techniques was a political and policy decision which Yoo had no business making and wisely stayed out of.

How is John Yoo evil?


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 21, 2010 @ 7:19 am

If you advocate directly violating the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, various statutes on torture, human rights, etc., in contravention of all legal precedent outside of fascist totalitarian regimes, if you are not evil, then you are criminally negligent. His lack of anything like regret at the violation of these laws at his urging makes him unrepentant and immoral.

I don't like these terror suspects. But I believe that if you want to turn the United States into a secretive, torturing, junta-led political machine that is a democracy in name only – where laws are only suggestions, and nobody should be held accountable for violating them, then a criminal (the guys who advised Hitler that violations of human rights were ok were prosecuted alongside soldiers at Nuremberg, remember) like John Yoo is the guy for you, and you should get the hell out of my country and let people with morals run the place.


Darkeyeddave
Comment posted January 21, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

If you advocate directly violating the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, various statutes on torture, human rights, etc., in contravention of all legal precedent outside of fascist totalitarian regimes, if you are not evil, then you are criminally negligent. His lack of anything like regret at the violation of these laws at his urging makes him unrepentant and immoral.

I don't like these terror suspects. But I believe that if you want to turn the United States into a secretive, torturing, junta-led political machine that is a democracy in name only – where laws are only suggestions, and nobody should be held accountable for violating them, then a criminal (the guys who advised Hitler that violations of human rights were ok were prosecuted alongside soldiers at Nuremberg, remember) like John Yoo is the guy for you, and you should get the hell out of my country and let people with morals run the place.


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Raymond Keen
Comment posted March 26, 2010 @ 10:51 am

Jon Stewart is a no-talent liberal loudmouth, who smirks and shouts. He is not very bright, which would not be a problem if he realized that. His standard delivery is “the shout.” His comedy lines are written for him by mediocre liberbal hacks.


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RobertF
Comment posted May 28, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

Speaking of cowards. I'm sure we would be a lot safer if you were in any position of power. Sometimes unconventional tactics are necessary in an unconventional conflict. The strategies used by Americans in the Revolutionary War, i.e. guerrilla warfare, were seen as ethically and morally wrong by many but we would not have won the war without it. Anyone that has a problem with using enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorists wishing to inflict death and destruction on a massive scale to innocent people makes me laugh.


Collater333
Comment posted June 18, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

That was the most disappointing interview, Stewart should have grilled him, instead of be a smartass/suckup.


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Comment posted August 12, 2010 @ 8:11 am

That was the most disappointing interview, Stewart should have grilled him, instead of be a smartass/suckup.


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Comment posted August 21, 2010 @ 11:56 am

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Comment posted September 22, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

love those nutball things covered in chocolate. I, like you, also believe that the educated and artistic are just darn better than people who don't appreciate their better-ness and correct-itude.


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