A debate featuring author of torture memo and Bruce Fein saw more rationalizing of the executive’s massive powers.
WASHINGTON — There’s a lot of talk today about the feebleness of Congress, whether on its inability to pass real spending budgets or confront knotty but inevitably crucial issues like immigration. But there’s nothing that gets constitutionalists more agitated than lawmakers’ seeming abdication of their war powers.
“They are the invertebrate branch,” charged Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar who moonlights as James Madison in rotating theater performances inside and outside the Beltway. “Pure cowardice,” he adds, once or twice for good measure.
That was the upshot of a debate Thursday night between Fein and his peer John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Yoo has been vocal about what he says is executive power “run amok” under President Donald Trump. That might seem the height of irony, given that Yoo’s infamous 2002 memo as deputy attorney general gave the military and the CIA license to torture countless detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib for at least seven years until President Barack Obama ended the practice by executive order in 2009 (though even then it’s suspected that renditions to secret black sites continued well into the Obama administration).