You read it here first. Or, if you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, second. In today’s WSJ, Yoo actually speaks out against a war. Yoo, remember is the Berkeley law professor who believes that the U.S. president has way more power than the Constitution appears to give him and that he can rightfully use this power to order the torture of people.
No, he doesn’t oppose the current war. He probably won’t oppose the next war. But he does oppose, apparently, the War of 1812. Here’s what he wrote:
But the historical record on this is not heartening. During the reign of the Jeffersonians, the progenitors of today’s Democrats, the congressional caucus chose the party’s nominee. It was a system that yielded mediocrity, even danger. Congressional hawks pushed James Madison into the War of 1812 by demanding ever more aggressive trade restrictions against Great Britain and ultimately declaring war — all because they wanted to absorb Canada. It ended with a stalemate in the north, the torching of the U.S. capital, and Gen. Andrew Jackson winning a victory at the Battle of New Orleans.
I can see from some of the comments on my first blog yesterday that blogging and nuance don’t mix well. As I said, I liked Buckley somewhat and I would never celebrate his death except to the extent that he, as a Catholic, would want me to. All I was saying is that some balance was needed in the assessment of him. If you don’t want to assess him, that’s fine. But when commentator after commentator comments on his civility without hedging the compliment, that’s where balance is required. Moreover, contrary to one of the commenters on my first blog, I was not making a judgment about his personality apart from his ideas. It was when he tried to defend war against the devastating criticism of Noam Chomsky that this unpleasant aspect of his personality came out.
Also, those who think one should not speak ill of the dead would certainly not have found agreement from–William F. Buckley. See what he wrote about Murray Rothbard after Murray died, for example.
And I know what follows next: some will say that what I really tried to do with my blog on WFB was to pay him back for his bad treatment of Murray. But if you knew Murray and some of the nasty things he wrote about me, you would not make that claim.
I notice that many of the obituaries of Buckley make a positive mention of his manners and civility. That was often accurate. But one way to judge someone’s real civility is to see how he reacts when he’s losing a debate. Yesterday, I rewatched all of the YouTube videos from when he had Noam Chomsky on in the late 1960s and they discussed, among other things, the Vietnam War. Buckley was often good when he knew more than the person he interviewed, which was often. But Chomsky had a calm command of the facts and Buckley got rattled a lot. One way to respond when you get called out is to admit the point. That was not Buckley’s way. Instead he got belligerent, interrupting Chomsky every time Chomsky tried to respond to the latest Buckley thrust. I challenge anyone to watch those videos and come out thinking well of Buckley’s civility.
I write this as someone who liked Buckley somewhat and was even, for 6 months, the economics editor of National Review who wrote 2 unsigned short editorials every issue (in 1986 and early 1987). And I’m not making a total statement of support for everything Noam Chomsky has written or said. But I do think that the scales must be balanced.