George W. Bush, you say? Never heard of him.
That’s the tack that Torture Memo author John Yoo seems to take in a new interview with Deborah Solomon of The New York Times Magazine.
The parley was to promote Yoo’s new book, Crisis and Command, which the Times describes as “an eloquent, fact-laden history of audacious power grabs by American presidents going back to George Washington” — a subject with which Yoo, who was a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, has some familiarity.
But — perhaps with one eye on a forthcoming Justice Department report which may recommend disciplinary action be taken against him — Yoo also seems keen to distance himself from the president he served.
Check out this exchange:
Were you close to George Bush?
No, I’ve never met him. I don’t know Cheney either. I have not gone hunting with him, which is probably a good thing for me.
Weren’t you invited to the White House Christmas party during your two years at the Department of Justice?
I don’t think so. That’s the way the government works. There’s the attorney general, then the deputy attorney general and then an associate attorney general. Then there’s the assistant attorney general, who was the head of my office.
So you’re saying you were just one notch above an intern, you and Monica Lewinsky?
She was much closer to the president than I ever was.
There’s also an interesting glimpse into Yoo’s presonality:
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.
One note of caution on all this. Solomon’s interviews for the magazine were criticized in the past for heavily editing quotes, in a way that some interview subjects felt was misleading. The interviews now make clear: “INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.” So it’s hard to know for sure that the conversation went exactly as it’s presented.
Still, Yoo’s main message seems clear: Who is this Bush you speak of?