Should this man be teaching constitutional law at one of the nation's top law schools? If he were being hired on the basis of that memo, certainly not. But he is already teaching at Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and he has tenure, which makes the matter far more complicated and argues, in the end, for keeping Yoo on the faculty.
Yoo's memo for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has long been repudiated by the administration for which he worked, which gives some hint of how extreme it is.
Now, the declassification of the document has ignited a new round of demands for his dismissal, with online petitions deluging the e-mail inbox of Boalt Hall dean Christopher Edley. Yoo "twisted the law in order to sanction what is highly likely to be considered a war crime," lectured a group called the American Freedom Campaign.
Edley, a veteran of the Clinton and Carter White Houses, responded last week with a memo of his own, concluding that Yoo "offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service." Still, he found, this failing does not "warrant dismissal or even a potentially chilling inquiry."
Absent "very substantial evidence" of "clear professional misconduct" or criminal violations, Edley said, "no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member."
Disputes over academic freedom tend by their very nature to involve unpleasant choices. No one wants a comparative literature professor who marches with Nazis on the faculty, but pushing her out for that reason invites McCarthyite purges.
The scientist who argues that blacks are genetically inferior to whites (William Shockley), or the "ethnic studies" professor who describes those killed in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns" (Ward Churchill) may be even more repugnant because their offensive statements are intertwined with their academic work.
Really? John Yoo is not as bad as Ward Churchill?
Should John Yoo even be allowed to practice law in this country? That's a question above my pay grade. But for a whole lot of people who are at that pay grade, the ball is now rolling to get Yoo fired from his job and to have his ability to practice law in this country taken away. Either they will or they won't--but if they do, who can argue that having John Yoo find another line of work would be a bad thing? I hear the military is looking for a few good men. Perhaps Yoo could pour his ass into some BDUs and go over to Iraq and check out how things are going now that our enemies know we torture people.
I never understood the furor over Churchill. He was typical of a lot of professors I saw at the school that I went to--a wannabe, a poseur and a borderline phony. Well, in Churchill's case, the borderline part is pretty much confirmed--he was a fraud and a phony. But he had tenure, he had a chairmanship, and he was published. And widely read, if you believe the hype. Professors at that level are always striving, but get caught up in the fact that they really aren't that smart, can't think for themselves, and they make the fatal mistake of believing their own bullshit.
When Yoo started believing his own bullshit, the legal justification for torturing people became the policy of the United States of America. When Churchill started believing his bullshit, he got to see his reputation trashed by a bunch of wingnuts. He got fired. Yoo got hired. And that's more than Alberto Gonzales can say, right?
That whole thing about not wanting to be like Joe McCarthy? Yeah, you might want to read the Constitution first. Try to tape it back up first, because after being eviscerated with a razorblade, there isn't a whole lot left of it that makes any sense anymore--again, thanks to the likes of Yoo.
But let's be clear--Ruth Marcus thinks that an ethnic studies professor who got fired from the University of Colorado at Boulder because he said something that pissed off Fox News is worse than a man who actually committed a war crime by providing the legal basis for torture.
How fucking insane is that?