When my head starts to hurt from the arduous mental gymnastics required to make sense of the Bush Admninistration’s actions and explanations, I often turn to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll.
Today is one of those days. Jon has given us an imaginary interview with a real dangerous man.
Perhaps you have been unable to follow the intricacies of the logic used by John Yoo, the UC Berkeley law professor who has emerged as the president’s foremost apologist for all the stuff he has to apologize for. I have therefore prepared a brief, informal summary of the relevant arguments.
Why does the president have the power to unilaterally authorize wiretaps of American citizens?
Because he is the president.
Does the president always have that power?
No. Only when he is fighting the war on terror does he have that power.
When will the war on terror be over?
The fight against terror is eternal. Terror is not a nation; it is a tactic. As long as the president is fighting a tactic, he can use any means he deems appropriate.
Why does the president have that power?
It’s in the Constitution.
Where in the Constitution?
It can be inferred from the Constitution. When the president is protecting America, he may by definition make any inference from the Constitution that he chooses. He is keeping America safe.
But isn’t there a secret court, the FISA court, that has the power to authorize wiretapping warrants? Wasn’t that court set up for just such situations when national security is at stake?
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court might disagree with the president. It might thwart his plans. It is a danger to the democracy that we hold so dear. We must never let the courts stand in the way of America’s safety.
So there are no guarantees that the president will act in the best interests of the country?
The president was elected by the people. They chose him; therefore he represents the will of the people. The people would never act against their own interests; therefore, the president can never act against the best interests of the people. It’s a doctrine I like to call “the triumph of the will.”
But surely the Congress was also elected by the people, and therefore also represents the will of the people. Is that not true?
Can the president authorize torture?
No. The president can only authorize appropriate means.
Could those appropriate means include torture?
It’s not torture if the president says it’s not torture. It’s merely appropriate. Remember, America is under constant attack from terrorism. The president must use any means necessary to protect America.
Won’t the American people object?
Not if they’re scared enough.
So this policy will be in place right up until the next election?
Election? Let’s just say that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. It may not be wise to have an election in a time of national peril.