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John Yoo defends Obama’s war powers in Libya

Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department attorney helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a new way to make Bay Area liberals mad: supporting President Barack Obama’s stance on his power to attack Libya.

In an op-ed piece that appeared in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Yoo argues House Republicans are sacrificing constitutional principle for partisan advantage in battling the President on Libya.

John Yoo “By accusing President Barack Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution, House Republicans are abandoning their party’s longstanding position that the Constitution allows the executive to use force abroad, subject to Congress’s control over funding,” Yoo wrote. “Sadly, they’ve fallen victim to the siren song of short-term political gain against a president who continues to stumble in national-security matters.”

OK, so he’s not an Obama fan by any stretch of the imagination. But Yoo wrote that “Mr. Obama’s constitutional position today on war powers is little different from that of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats portrayed as a warmongering dictator.”

“If the Constitution gives the president the executive authority to use force abroad, Congress cannot take it away,” Yoo wrote. “Surely Mr. Boehner agreed with this proposition before the current president took office. He, for instance, never claimed that President George W. Bush’s exercise of broad executive powers in the war on terror violated the Constitution. Nor does he appear to have thought that legislative authorization of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was constitutionally necessary in 2001 and 2002.”

If Republicans want to end U.S. involvement in Libya, Yoo concludes, they should cut the operation’s purse strings; refuse to lift the debt ceiling until they get what they want; or even start impeachment proceedings. “But holding hands with isolationist Democrats out of political convenience is no way to defend the Constitution.”

So, Yoo’s tally is: House Republicans are wrong; antiwar Democrats are wrong; and the President is wrong but constitutionally protected.

UPDATE @ 9:50 A.M.: Liz Cheney and Karl Rove agree.

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Whitman to raise money tonight in Bay Area

It’ll be a GOP all-star bash tonight as Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign holds a fundraiser at the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City. On the headliners list: former Massachusetts governor and 2008 Republican presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney; 2008 Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and former Secretary of State George Shultz.

What an interesting bunch of people with whom to talk, n’est pas? Mais non! “Tonight’s event will be open to the press but there will be no availability for interviews,” sayeth the campaign.

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Karl Rove in SF: Back into the lions’ den?

Former White House insider Karl Rove will speak about President Barack Obama’s “growing political challenges and the nation’s longing for conservative principles” in addressing the inaugural event of the San Francisco Bay Committee for Heritage next Thursday, Sept. 24 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco.

The press release that went out today says the 7 p.m. dinner, following a 6 p.m. reception, already is sold out.

Rove was President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff and senior adviser from 2001 to 2007; seen by many as the architect of Bush’s election victories and political machinations, Rove now contributes to the Fox News Channel and writes columns for the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Some progressives have tagged him as a war criminal, and one protestor tried to “arrest” him at a San Francisco appearance last October. If there’s not a slew of ‘em on the sidewalk outside that hotel next Thursday night, I’ll eat my hat.

The press release describes the committee as “a group of business and civic leaders in northern California who support the conservative public policy research of The Heritage Foundation, the leading Washington think tank.” It’s chaired by Seligman Investments Portfolio Manager Paul Wick, and is one of a dozen such Heritage-affiliated groups that has sprung up across the nation. Basic American Foods Chairman William J. “Jerry” Hume of San Francisco; Teranetics CEO Nersi Nazari of Atherton; and former U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach of San Francisco are listed as honorary chairmen.

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Dems want judge impeached for torture memos

California’s netroots are ramping up an effort to urge the House of Representatives to impeach Circuit Judge Jay Bybee of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because he helped set the framework for the Bush Administration’s detention, extradition and interrogation — which many have deemed torture — of terrorism detainees.

Bybee, 55, an Oakland native, was the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Justice Department from November 2001 to March 2003; he was nominated to the San Francisco-based circuit court by President George W. Bush in May 2002, confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2003 and now maintains his chambers in Las Vegas.

He has been in the hot seat for a while now due to an August 2002 memo on interrogation methods, but last week’s release of several additional memos has brought his name back to the fore.

An online petition is trying to build support for an impeachment resolution passed by the Los Angeles Democratic Party and scheduled to be taken up at this coming weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento. The New York Times called for Bybee’s impeachment in an editorial yesterday:

“In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.”
[snip]
“These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him.”

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Bush commutes sentences for Ramos, Compean

This just in… In his final day in office, President George W. Bush today issued commutations to a pair of former Border Patrol agents serving prison sentences for the shooting of an unarmed drug dealer on the border in early 2005. This case had become a rallying point for conservatives and those who favor a sharp crackdown on illegal immigration across the U.S. border. Here’s the release:

WASHINGTON – On Jan. 19, 2009, President George W. Bush granted commutations of sentence to two individuals:

Jose Alonso Compean – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 12, 2008; Western District of Texas; 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • Ignacio Ramos, a/k/a Ignacio Ramos Jr. – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 13, 2008; Western District of Texas; 11 years and one day in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • UPDATE @ 10:12 A.M. MONDAY: I must note that while the case did indeed become a cause celebre for many conservatives, the government’s prosecution of these two men garnered criticism from a wide range of people across the political spectrum. After the Senate Judiciary Committee probed the case in 2007, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-signed a letter urging President Bush to take the action he took today.

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    CodePINK’s solidarity with the shoe-thrower

    There’s never a wrong time for street theater against the war, as far as CodePINK is concerned, and so the activists who blockaded and protested downtown Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station for all that time will be back outside the station at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, in a show of ow solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

    (Didja see how fast Bush ducked? Not bad for a 62-year-old who’s used to having a room full of trained professionals throw themselves in front of him at the first sign of trouble. And, by the way, I can understand how al-Zaidi could have a chance to launch the first loafer, but shouldn’t someone have gotten to him before the second?)

    ANYway, CodePINK activists are calling for his immediate release without charges; they even want Bush to intervene on his behalf. (Yes, good luck with that, let me know how it goes.) They’ll march around the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square holding their shoes aloft, then line them up for a dramatic tableau; it’s meant not only to show support for al-Zaidi’s act of civil disobedience, but also to represent Iraqis killed, tortured, maimed and U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq, the news release says.

    “It’s outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis,” said CodePINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes.”