[See my newest post on the Yoo issue here.]
The Dean of any law school is responsible for the future professional lives of the nation’s lawyers. At the heart of our political system is respect for the rule of law which at its most fundamental means that there exists a check on the arbitrary exercise of power.
No more egregious example of the violation of the rule of law can be found in recent memory than the torture policy of the Bush Administration which was bolstered significantly by John Yoo, a law professor at U.C. Berkeley, who wrote memos justifying violent abuse of individuals captured and secretly detained by the United States in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet, Berkeley Law Dean Chris Edley refuses to investigate Yoo’s behavior and consider appropriate disciplinary action. While it is unlikely that Yoo can be fired absent the committing of a crime (and he has, unfortunately in my view, not yet been found guilty of a crime), that does not mean that Berkeley could not institute other appropriate disciplinary action for Yoo’s behavior such as removing him from the classroom where he continues to advocate for untrammeled Presidential powers.
Naturally Yoo deserves the due process he advocated denying the prisoners at Guantanamo before the implementation of any disciplinary action, but why should Dean Edley be unwilling to begin the process?
Perhaps the movement against Yoo should shift their attention to the behavior of Dean Edley. One wonders whether Dean Edley, a close advisor to candidate Barack Obama, is nervous about criticizing Yoo in light of the fact that the Obama Administration is continuing many of the Bush regime’s most egregious policies, including extraordinary rendition of prisoners to third countries where they will certainly be tortured.
Amendment: I just watched the interview of John Yoo on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Stewart reacted to Yoo as many people do – frustrated by his slippery smooth avoidance of any responsibility for his heinous behavior. What Stewart failed to raise, at least in the segment that aired on Monday, is the fact that Yoo is facing a civil lawsuit brought by a human rights clinic at the Yale Law School, where Yoo was a law student in the early 90s (full disclosure: Yoo was my teaching assistant when I was a first year student at Yale). Hence, Yoo has his eye on the possibility of facing legal culpability for his acts while in government service. The only way to understand why Yoo is acting the way he is acting is to watch the tapes of the testimony of the Nazis at Nuremburg.
But more significant is what comes across in listening to Yoo is that he really does not understand how the American system of democracy works, or should work. His expansive notion of Presidential power is controversial at best and far more familiar to students of authoritarian and totalitarian ideologies and regimes (as I am, as a student of stalinism). He does not seem to understand what the rule of law means. Hence my reference to Nuremburg – Yoo is the modern face of incipient fascism in America.
And yet Dean Edley continues to hide behind him.