Bybee’s ‘regret’

BYBEE’S ‘REGRET’…. Unlike the other Bush administration officials who provided the justification for torture policies, Jay Bybee currently enjoys a lifetime appointment on a federal appeals court. The nomination was an insult, his confirmation was absurd, and as amn NYT recently noted, “These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him.”

As the jurist comes under closer scrutiny, Bybee’s friends want the political world to know that the poor guy just feels awful about the whole mess. The Washington Post was kind enough to publish a lengthy piece today on Bybee’s “regret.”

“I’ve heard him express regret at the contents of the memo,” said a fellow legal scholar and longtime friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while offering remarks that might appear as “piling on.” “I’ve heard him express regret that the memo was misused. I’ve heard him express regret at the lack of context — of the enormous pressure and the enormous time pressure that he was under. And anyone would have regrets simply because of the notoriety.”

This probably isn’t the right way to pushback against the criticism. The usual line from Bush administration officials is that the torture really was legally justified, and really did save lives. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s not really the point. For conservatives, there’s nothing to “regret” at all. Indeed, the torture is to be applauded. Bybee, for the right, is a “hero.”

But if Bybee feels bad about all of this, it suggests maybe the infamous Bybee Memo was a mistake. If he’s filled with regret, maybe he realizes his legal guidance was wrong. Indeed, Bybee’s anonymous friend said the torture memo “got away from him,” and ended up in a place Bybee “never intended.” Another source said Bybee “was not pleased” with the memo that bore his name.

I’d find it a lot easier to believe this if Bybee were to say something publicly, and perhaps explain his conduct.

The Post piece added that Bybee didn’t even want to work in the OLC in the first place.

Bybee’s friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, [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.

Being unable to answer for what followed is “very frustrating,” said Guynn, who spoke to Bybee before agreeing to be interviewed.

But that’s hardly helpful. As Adam Serwer explained, “So Bybee knew he was breaking the law in allowing the use of torture, but you have to understand, he only did it because he really wanted to be a federal judge.”

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