Friday, February 19, 2010

John Yoo vs. Garry Wills: The Debate over Presidential Authority

One of the most heated debates in recent years has been over the expansion of presidential authority -- to interpret laws as he or she thinks best, to make and prosecute wars, to establish rules for treatment of foreign terrorists in custody. Commonwealth Club members recently got a close-up look at this debate when two well-known constitutional experts visited the Club, separately, within two weeks of each other.

John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley, came to discuss the evolution of presidential authority and to respond to audience questions about his controversial role in formulating policies toward the use of torture during the Bush administration. Then, historian and journalist Garry Wills visited to talk about how presidential authority has expanded over the years, beyond the intent of the writers of the Constitution. Asked about Yoo's theories, Wills gave a withering response.

Watch the two programs in high-definition video from the Commonwealth Club's YouTube channel, and post your responses below.

John Yoo:

Garry Wills:


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