I’m Convinced

I’ve decided to discuss the writing of an author who’s work I not only strived to emulate since first reading his it, but who’s success as a writer is illustrated by its impact on recent American history. I am referring to the work of John Yoo, the attorney who authored the so-called torture memos from the George W. Bush Administration. Whether you agree with the political ideologies of Yoo or not is irrelevant, and that is because his legendary power of persuasion and word manipulation render his argumentative writing abilities most impressive regardless. I’ve chose analyze a shorter piece by Yoo titled “How the Presidency Regained Its Power”, with which he makes a very convincing argument both explaining the actions of the Bush Administration and justifying the sensibility associated with increased executive power.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Yoo’s piece is how he appears to be effortlessly dismantling the arguments of President Bush’s critics by referencing historical events that support his own ideals. Yoo draws back to the actions of several past commander in chiefs, drawing correlations between their actions and those of President Bush, successfully minimizing the perceived amount of power seized by the white house during Bush’s presidency. He also uses events such as the Vietnam War and The Watergate Scandal to discredit Bush’s critics by labeling their view of the presidency as heavily skewed by the aftermath of these occurrences. It is difficult to argue with a writer who appears to have more than one response to each of the arguments of those who would oppose him.

Additionally, one can’t help but note the importance of Yoo’s sentence structure and the way he phrases his arguments. Most famously done when he wrote the torture memos that granted the CIA the power to use questionable methods while interrogating terrorist leaders, Yoo employed a certain vagueness in his writing that made his actual intent difficult to decipher while also proving difficult for congress to rebut. In this particular article, I noted the way Yoo describes the other two branches of government when mentioning the actions they have taken in the past to limit the powers of the president during the last 30 to 35 years. He refers to the judiciary as “energetic” and calls congress “bulked up”, insinuating that both have a tendency to act out in ways that exceed their constitutional mandates. To disagree with many of John Yoo’s points almost feels well, unpatriotic.

Yoo’s analysis of the Constitution, an accurate interpretation of which guides this particular argument, is particularly interesting as well because of how simplified and obvious its meaning appears to be as according to Yoo. A perfect interpretation of this 228 year old document has escaped judges and scholars since its enactment. And yet when John Yoo explains its meaning in his works, he produces an interpretation with only small voids which he fills by citing examples from his vast bank of American historical events. He quotes specific clauses from the document and offers a word by word interpretation of its meaning which leaves no room for dispute as his analysis pertains to his overall argument in favor of executive power.

John Yoo’s work may not serve much of a literary purpose, but I admire his writing all the same because the success of his persuasive writing techniques seems to be more of a fact than an opinion of mine. His work restructured the functions and purpose of our government in such a way that would allow Bush’s war on terror to ensue. He authored dozens of letters, executive orders, memos, and clauses that would grant the presidency the power it deemed necessary to keep America safe in the years following 9/11. These powers, many of which would be deemed irresponsibly great for one branch to wield, fell into the lap of President Bush thanks to the brilliance of his deputy assistant Attorney General, John Yoo.


2 thoughts to “I’m Convinced”

  1. Hey Nick,
    I’ve heard about his book regarding the Bush administration and have wanted to read it for some time, so your blog post only made me want to read it more! The idea of combining political science and literary works is complicated, many people don’t associate government writing with creativity. Hearing the way you spoke about his writing was very helpful to me. I often write argumentative essays where I feel like I’m not getting the point across, but (if I’m correct regarding his writing), he has a way of providing historical evidence for every opposing argument. That is brilliant. You summed this up well with the line “It is difficult to argue with a writer who appears to have more than one response to each of the arguments of those who would oppose him.” Yoo’s piece sounds moving and informative because he is so knowledgeable on the topic and I admire that greatly.

  2. Hi Nick! I can clearly see why you would aspire to be like Yoo. You presented very specific aspects of his writing through great examples. I especially liked the part about him giving an elusive interpretation like it was obvious. The fact that he made things seem that way does make him an extremely effective argumentative writer. Conciseness is important, and it’s very easy to be concise and still leave important points out. To say all that needs to be said in a way that is easy to understand is something is we strive to to do in all argumentative writing.

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