Chutzpah Watch

CHUTZPAH WATCH…. John Bolton, the former ambassador to the U.N., and former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo, best known for his torture memos and creative ideas about the “unitary executive,” have a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times today. Now that Bush is leaving office, Bolton and Yoo believe — get this — the president should have less authority and discretion when it comes to international affairs.

The Constitution’s Treaty Clause has long been seen, rightly, as a bulwark against presidential inclinations to lock the United States into unwise foreign commitments. The clause will likely be tested by Barack Obama’s administration, as the new president and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, led by the legal academics in whose circles they have long traveled, contemplate binding down American power and interests in a dense web of treaties and international bureaucracies.

Like past presidents, Mr. Obama will likely be tempted to avoid the requirement that treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate…. By insisting on the proper constitutional process for treaty-making, Republicans can join Mr. Obama in advancing a bipartisan foreign policy. They can also help strike the proper balance between the legislative and executive branches that so many have called for in recent years.

As Bolton and Yoo see it, Obama might pursue international treaties that “subordinate” the United States to “international control” under the auspices of the “‘global governance’ movement.” As such, they argue, Obama must only enter into international agreements that have the support of two-thirds of the Senate.

Reading this, I had to double check to make sure we were talking about the same Bolton and Yoo. After all, John Yoo has spent most of the last eight years arguing that the president has an unfettered power to do as he pleases on the international stage. Indeed, Yoo argued that the president can literally ignore any law he chooses — including the Constitution — if he decides it’s in the nation’s interests.

But that was then. Now Yoo is worried about executive overreach. Now Yoo wants every letter of the Constitution to be respected and adhered to without exception. The very same people who argued that the president must act without restriction when pursuing his foreign policy are now arguing that the president must honor the Treaty Clause at all costs.

How these guys expect to be taken seriously is a total mystery.