Yoo can’t be serious

YOO CAN’T BE SERIOUS…. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s defense for hiring John Yoo as a columnist was even worse yesterday than it was the day before.

Harold Jackson, The Inquirer’s editorial page editor, said he was surprised by the sudden delayed anger directed his way over Mr. Yoo. He said the decision to hire a columnist was his, but that “Mr. Yoo was suggested by the publisher,” Brian Tierney.

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. Jackson said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

Asked if the release of the memos affected his view of hiring Mr. Yoo, Mr. Jackson said: “From a personal perspective, yes. We certainly know more now than we did then, but we didn’t go into that contract blindly. I’m not going to say the same decision wouldn’t have been made.”

But Tierney said the memos did not alter his opinion.

This doesn’t work at all. First, there was “delayed anger” because no one knew — and the paper didn’t announce — that the Inquirer had actually hired Yoo until this past weekend. As a rule, people rarely complain about a development before learning about it.

Second, hiring the author of torture memos to prove the paper isn’t liberal is just crazy. The Inquirer, which publishes in one of the nation’s most Democratic cities, is already paying Rick Santorum, for crying out loud. What some in the media fail to realize is that reflexive conservatives, who expect all news outlets to follow the standards of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, won’t be impressed. Republicans who think the paper is a “knee-jerk liberal publication” will continue to think that whether or not it pays John Yoo for poorly written columns.

I was most surprised, though, to see the Inquirer brass say they just didn’t care much about Yoo’s work. It seemed at least plausible to me the paper might argue, “When we hired Yoo, the torture memos hadn’t been released yet.” That wouldn’t have been persuasive — Yoo’s record and tolerance for routine law-breaking was already clear — but it would have at least offered the Inquirer some deniability. Yoo was hired in November 2008; Yoo’s memos were released in April 2009.

But the paper’s publisher and editorial page editor seem largely unfazed, and suggested Yoo would have been hired anyway. The torture advocate runs the risk of getting arrested if he leaves the country, but the Inquirer is nevertheless pleased to pay him to share his insights on current events.

There are probably some creative, thoughtful right-of-center writers in Philly who could write some interesting columns. The problem isn’t that the Philadelphia Inquirer hired another conservative, it’s that the paper hired someone who made alleged war crimes possible.

Post Script: Tierney told the NYT few of his readers actually care about this: “I’ve gotten more mail recently on our making our comics smaller than I have on John Yoo.” Here’s hoping that changes fairly soon.