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10/04/2020

Andrew McCarthy Reviews John Yoo's Book "Defender in Chief"
Michael Ramsey

Recently published, in the Federalist Society Review (vol. 21, Oct. 2020), Andrew McCarthy: The Accidental Defender of the Constitution (reviewing [favorably] Defender in Chief: Donald Trump’s Fight for Presidential Power by John Yoo (Macmillan 2020)). From the introduction:

Decades from now, when historians assess Donald Trump’s presidency with sobriety and dispassion, the ironies are apt to stand out most. Donald Trump is the populist who lost the popular vote, owing his ascendancy to the Electoral College, an institution designed to temper popular excesses and which Trump himself, while pondering a presidential bid in 2012, rebuked as “a disaster for democracy.” Trump has been condemned as the Constitution’s scourge by progressives for whom the Constitution is mostly a nuisance to evolve beyond, framed by white racists in a time before Wokeness. Trump is the president who upheld the rule of law by firing the FBI director. He submitted to investigation by a special counsel whom he reviled but who nevertheless cleared him. Trump was impeached anyway by Democrats who were pushed into the exercise by partisans. But Democratic partisanship proved so devoid of appeal outside the activist Left that impeachment, though it happened just a few months earlier, rated nary a mention in the Democratic National Convention.

Is it any wonder that these four years have aged most of us tenfold?

We’re not through with the ironies, though. For present purposes, here is the most striking one: Through all of this, President Trump’s most compelling defender may be John Yoo, a brilliant conservative thinker who appeared to have both feet firmly planted in Camp Never Trump when the president took office in 2017.

...

Impeachment is not the only reason that Donald Trump has had to fight for the right to wield the presidential power he won in 2016. He has had to fight for it against an opposition party that has labored to cast doubt on his legitimacy; against a judiciary teeming with progressive activists who have portrayed him as sui generis and thus without entitlement to the comity and presumption of regularity accorded to other presidents; and against the sprawling administrative state, including executive branch agencies he nominally controls.

Yoo’s thesis is that, by waging these battles, Trump has safeguarded the presidency as the Framers envisioned it when they crafted our founding law. ...

And here is the book description from Amazon:

In Defender in Chief, celebrated constitutional scholar John Yoo makes a provocative case against Donald Trump's alleged disruption of constitutional rules and norms.

Donald Trump isn't shredding the Constitution―he's its greatest defender.

Ask any liberal―and many moderate conservatives―and they'll tell you that Donald Trump is a threat to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. Mainstream media outlets have reported fresh examples of alleged executive overreach or authoritarian White House decisions nearly every day of his presidency. In the 2020 primaries, the candidates have rushed to accuse Trump of destroying our democracy and jeopardizing our nation's very existence.

Yoo argues that this charge has things exactly backwards. Far from considering Trump an inherent threat to our nation's founding principles, Yoo convincingly argues that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton would have seen Trump as returning to their vision of presidential power, even at his most controversial. It is instead liberal opponents who would overthrow existing constitutional understanding in order to unseat Trump, but in getting their man would inflict permanent damage on the office of the presidency, the most important office in our constitutional system and the world.

This provocative and engaging work is a compelling defense of an embattled president's ideas and actions.