John Yoo on John Yoo

John Yoo on John Yoo

Deborah Solomon, the New York Times Magazine‘s Q&A writer, has an interview with John Yoo.

The Berkeley professor and law scholar worked in the Office of Legal Counsel during the George W. Bush administration and is the author of the infamous "torture memos" arguing that harsh interrogation, as long as it does not cause pain tantamount to organ failure, is legal.

It’s worth a read in full — he says Lincoln is the president who most overstepped his authority and that he has never met Bush — but here’s my favorite part: 

I see various groups are protesting a decision by a California government lawyer to teach a course with you that starts on Jan. 12, claiming he is legitimizing your unethical behavior.
At Berkeley, protesting is an everyday activity. I am used to it. I remind myself of West Berlin — West Berlin surrounded by East Germany during the Cold War.

Are you saying the citizens of Berkeley are Communists, reminiscent of those on the dark side of the Iron Curtain?
There are probably more Communists in Berkeley than any other town in America, but I think of them more as lovers of Birkenstocks than Marx.

When, exactly, did you become a conservative?
I’ve been one since I was a kid. I was 9 when Jimmy Carter took office. I can remember him giving a speech in a funny sweater and asking people to turn down thermostats. And then there was the malaise speech. I thought they meant mayonnaise.

You were born in South Korea and grew up in and around Philadelphia, the son of two doctors. What sort of doctors?

What effect did that have on you?
I hope none.

Are they psychoanalysts?
I couldn’t tell you. I don’t actually know that much about their work. I’ve never really been interested.

A psychiatrist might say you are in denial.
I deny that I am in denial.