John Yoo believes that the President of the United States has the constitutional authority and unfettered power to order an entire village to be “massacred”.
John Yoo believes that Congress cannot stop the President from using nuclear weapons, if he “thought in good faith he was saving millions of … lives”. (Note that lives don’t actually have to be saved. It is not even necessary that there is probable cause to believe that lives will be saved. All that matters is the the president of the United States believes — in good faith or with a straight face — that lives will be saved.)
Given the recent track record of Presidents believing things that are simply not true — WMDs in Iraq, Iraq’s involvement in 9/11 — that’s a pretty disconcerting set of beliefs.
However, a compelling case could be made that John Yoo, by producing the torture memos on demand, and by spouting stuff like the nuclear weapons statement on TV, has endangered and continues to endanger the national security of the United States. His garbage allows the terrorists to adduce evidence in support of their contention that the US is an evil empire that must be opposed by any and all means, allows them to recruit the kind of maniacs who cheerfully perpetrate moral outrages like the 9/11 attacks.
So here’s the question: if the President thinks in good faith he would save thousands of lives by shutting Yoo’s mouth, what are the limits of his constitutional authority?
I can see batteries of lawyers lining up to argue that none of these alternatives can — in good faith and with a straight face — be called more extreme than ordering the massacre of an entire village.