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John Yoo, Author Of 'Torture' Memos, Views Bush As 'Average' President

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John Yoo, Author Of 'Torture' Memos, Views Bush As 'Average' President

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John Yoo, Author Of 'Torture' Memos, Views Bush As 'Average' President

Former president George W. Bush will probably be viewed by historians as "average ... around where Bill Clinton and the first president Bush ended up," John Yoo, the Bush-era Justice Department lawyer who wrote the so-called torture memos that offered legal justifications for harsh interrogation practices such as waterboarding, tells NPR's Madeleine Brand.

During a conversation that's due to air on today's All Things Considered, Yoo goes on to say he thinks Bush and his fellow Republicans "overspent" and expanded government too much, which sent budget deficits soaring. And in foreign policy, Yoo says, "the Iraq War, obviously is always going to be a question. I personally have never been certain ... whether the Iraq War made sense as a matter of strategy":

John Yoo, Author Of 'Torture' Memos, Views Bush As 'Average' President

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Yoo's tepid assessment of his former boss's performance is a somewhat surprising part of the ATC conversation. On the decisions he made that led to the "torture memos," Yoo summarizes what he's written in a new book — Crisis and Command — and in other interviews over recent years.

"We should always have an open and be willing to reconsider evidence in new light to see whether we should have done something differently," Yoo says. But, "the only thing I regret was just the pressure of time that we had to act under."

He also explains something that's been noted before, but that most people probably don't know:

The definition of "severe pain" that his memos applied came from a statute that, as Salon says, "regulates insurance benefits under the 'Medicare and Choice' plan."

That statute is posted here. A key passage:

The term "emergency medical condition" means a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that a prudent layperson, who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in —

(i) placing the health of the individual (or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy,

(ii) serious impairment to bodily functions, or

(iii) serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.

For much more on the memos, including links to copies of them, click here. (Update at 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 20: Our apologies. Earlier, we had a bad link here.)

Much more of Madeleine's conversation with Yoo will be on ATC. Click here to find an NPR station near you. And later, their discussion will be posted here.

For a different look at what Yoo's like when he's interviewed, check out the now fairly infamous appearance he made on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

As Stewart says in this look back at their conversation, it was like "interviewing sand" (fair warning, there's one bleeped expletive in this clip):

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