Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'm terribly sorry about those valid, dubious legal conclusions I signed!

Jay Bybee's friends are letting it be known that the good judge is really, really sorry about his role in bringing the United States down to the level of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Good luck with the charm offensive, y'all.

But if we're supposed to decide he shouldn't be impeached for lacking the legal and moral competence for the federal bench, "help" like this is counterproductive:
Tuan Samahon, a former clerk who recalled Bybee's remarks at the reunion dinner, said in an e-mail that the judge defended the legal reasoning behind the memos but not the policy decision.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, which filed a freedom-of-information request regarding the latest memos, said any distinction Bybee may make between the logic of the memos and their application in secret prisons is theoretical at best.

"I don't think the August 2002 memos reflect serious attempts to grapple in good faith with the law," Jaffer said. "These are documents that are meant to justify predetermined ends. They're not objective legal memos at all."
Indeed. Which makes Bybee's efforts to downplay his responsibility all the more repugnant.
"I got the impression that he was not pleased with that bit of scholarship," said an associate who asked not be identified sharing private conversations. "I don't know that he 'owned it.' . . . The way he put it was: He was head of the OLC, and it was written, and he was not pleased with it."

"But he signed it," said Chris Blakesley, a friend and fellow professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Boyd School of Law who was outraged by the memo, which was leaked in May 2004.

"The very evening it came out, we were going to dinner, and I told him how awful it was and I hoped he got a chance to repudiate it," Blakesley said. "He didn't say very much, and it was kind of awkward because our families were there."

"Getting to the personal side of him, my sense is he would love to repudiate them all," Blakesley said. "Which gets to: Why'd you sign it?"
A question the article does not answer in so many words, but I'll give the author credit for the ending:
Bybee's friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, [Bybee friend Randall] Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, "Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?" Guynn said.
Ambition explains a lot.

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