Jan
16
2010

Quote of the Day, John Yoo edition.

This pretty much encapsulates the intellectual, and I use the term extremely loosely, rigor of the antiwar movement when it comes to the GWOT:

How did he do it? It’s a question John Yoo has been getting a lot lately. How did he manage to outwit Jon Stewart? (“He slipped through my fingers,” Stewart recalled after Yoo’s recent appearance on The Daily Show. “It was like interview sand.”) Easy, says Yoo. “I’ve spent my whole career learning to settle down unruly college students who have not done the reading.”

…yes, pretty much. From what I watched of the interview I’d say that Stewart’s mistake was classic: his assumption that of course everyone agreed with his faction that torture was ordered; torture was committed; and that everything that his faction calls ‘torture’ was in fact torture caused him to walk into punch after punch.  What made it exceptionally painful (for given values of ‘painful’) was seeing Yoo take pity on Stewart a couple of minutes in and gently start presenting both sides of the core argument of What does the government need to do when faced with deliberate, unconventional attacks on its citizens? That lapse on Stewart’s part is actually a lot more damning than his inability to lay a few zingers on Yoo, but try telling that to his disappointed fanboys.

Mind you, I like Jon Stewart: he was making fun of the President back when it was still secular blasphemy.  But a man’s got to know his limitations.

Moe Lane

Crossposted to RedState.

15 Comments

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  • Neal Scroggs says:

    The secret is don’t let anyone paraphrase your arguments. Interviewers like Stewart, Marr et al. like to paraphrase responses so that their chosen version of your argument becomes the issue. Eventually you end up defending a different argument entirely. Whenever you hear the phrase “in other words” beware.

    For instance —

    Me: The chicken crossed the road.

    Bill Marr: And there’s a bar on the other side of the road.

    Me: Yes.

    Bill Marr: So in other words there’s this chicken with a drinking problem…

    Granted its a stupid example, but it shows how a clever interviewer can steer the conversation away from territory familiar and supportive of one’s thesis onto unfamiliar and possibly hostile ground.

    Yoo won out because he refused to grant Stewart’s attempts to equate any kind of interrogation tactics stronger than those approved by US courts in domestic criminal matters to torture.

  • jvon says:

    I think the bigger lesson here is: when attempting to make someone look like an idiot, make sure they aren’t smarter than you are.

  • David in San Diego says:

    I though it was rather amusing watching Stewart trying to do a ‘gotcha’ on Yoo by making the assertion that the Administration committed torture in subtle ways and hoping that Yoo would agree with it. Yoo would have none of it. Yoo correctly explained that there were all sorts of procedures that went beyond what law enforcement can do and his job was to figure out what was illegal under treaty and what was not.

    The Left’s problem is that they want go after al Queda et al by law enforcement means and not by the laws of war, therefore anything interrogation technique that is beyond law enforcement if de facto torture.

    Of course, if the current Administration starts to use techniques under Yoo’s memorandum, the Left’s silence will be deafening.

  • John says:

    Combined with this failure to live up to the left’s expectations of him as Yoo’s national inquisitor and his attack on Rachel Maddow for politicizing the Haitian earthquake story is going to start making some on the left worried about their most trusted non-insane news source (Olbermann holding the title on the insane side).

  • RJ says:

    Stewart was made to look like a fool because the left has always underestimated how much thought and work went into the development of Yoo’s memo, and interrogation policies in general. When confronted with reality he had no defense.

  • Mr. Bisawas says:

    I watched the entire exchange between Stewart and Yoo and neither one impressed me. Stewart was often inarticulate, trying to find the words to ask even one coherent question, while Yoo failed to parry the most serious charges leveled by Stewart against the Bush administration regarding torture, allowing Stewart to interrupt his answer and move on to another equally outrageous accusation. Frankly, when a teacher gets too far carried away with the lightheartedness of the conversation, as was the obvious case with Yoo, he no longer looks believable to his class. I’d be surprised if anyone in the audience was convinced by Yoo’s half-answers. I support Yoo’s official actions, but he sure didn’t convince me with that interview. I’m just surprised no one in the audience threw a shoe at him.

  • MaxMBJ says:

    Mr. Bisawas:

    You miss the point. Yoo is in enemy territory. He knows that a “soft answer turneth away wrath.” He masterfully does that and, in the process, takes away all the negative energy in the room.

    And … his later response about dealing with unprepared students is a masterpiece. It vindicates his style as well as slaps down John S. to unprepared student status and it does it with a smile.

    This guy is who all Republicans and right ideologues should emulate.

  • Mars vs Hollywood says:

    Frankly, when a teacher gets too far carried away with the lightheartedness of the conversation, as was the obvious case with Yoo, he no longer looks believable to his class.

    “Class” implies that Stewart’s audience is interested in learning. They are not. They are there to see their worldview confirmed in a series of flippant zingers and to see a hate-figure put on the spot.

    Yoo’s response was the proper one, beating them at their own game. It’s not like he was going to get a fair hearing.

  • james conrad says:

    Yeah, i saw the interview, Stewart was clearly out of his league, trying to make paper thin banal arguments about a subject that is deeply profound.

    I thought Yoo handled it well, cheerfully schooling Stewart about what the real issues are.

  • willis says:

    ” But a man’s got to know his limitations”

    That’s just one more thing Stewart doesn’t know.

  • Mikee says:

    Stewart is a comedian, not an interviewer. His interview with Yoo, as his interviews with all guests, is meant to elicit a modicum of information while providing a caricature of an actual information. Stewart always looks stupid in his interviews – because he is playing a role, and that role is unprepared, stupid comedian acting like reporter.

    That Yoo agreed to the interview was interesting,perhaps amusing, but to expect any real information from the dialogue is to miss the whole point of the Daily Show.

  • To Hayek With You says:

    The defining characteristic of the modern left is that they never think anything through. Just look at how Obama and Holder seemed to be totally taken aback that anyone could imagine KSM or the other terrorists might be found innocent on a technicality… or that there may be other issues precluding treating terrorists as criminals.

    Some of this is the fact that the media never challenges their views and they never have to test their arguments. But most of it is just the immaturity of their position.

  • John Adams is Not Dead says:

    Mr. Bisawas – unlike MaxMBJ, I am in complete agreement with you. When we fail to tell the truth, we dumb down the conversation. It is the basis of the Statists’ attack on the foundation of our country — liberty and freedom exchanged for vague concepts of fairness and the equality of result rather than opportunity. As an aside, your shoe throwing comment made me spit out my coffee. It was as priceless as Yoo’s comment on educating brainwashed college sophomores.

  • MochaLite says:

    I too saw the whole interview, and I agree with Moe. Stewart was actually pretty sincere in his lack of understanding, and I think sincerely trying to rememdy that, but his worldview is so all-encompassing that it makes it impossible for him to do so. Too bad!

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