John Yoo, the embattled Bush administration official who authored the memos sanctioning torture, compares his residency in Berkeley as akin to living in West Berlin during the height of the Cold War.

In a interview with the Los Angeles Times, Yoo, who teaches at the Boalt School of Law, said “I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism.”

Then he quickly shifts time periods, moving from the days of the Berlin airlift through the Free Speech Movement to the anti-Vietnam War period, calling Berkeley residents “a natural history museum of the 1960s.”

“It’s like looking at the panoramic displays of troglodytes sitting around the campfire with their clubs,” Yoo told the Times. “Here, it’s tie-dye and marijuana. It’s just like the 1960s, with the Vietnam War still to protest.”

Well, a number of Berkeley law students have been protesting Yoo’s presence on campus. Maybe now they will be joined by all those graying, tie-dye wearing hippies he thinks are the only group living here.

But even a fierce conservative like Yoo apparently can’t escape Berkeley’s charms.

“My wife has forbidden us from moving. She likes it here,” Yoo told the Times. He was referring to Elsa Arnett, the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning and liberal former foreign correspondent Peter Arnett.

The two met while undergraduates at Harvard.

The Times concludes: “Yoo seems at peace living in Berkeley, even though he disparages the community as an enclave of self-satisfied extremists intolerant of those who think outside the liberal mind-set.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it here,” Yoo told the newspaper.

Update Thanks to commenter Matthew. We are, of course, writing about Berkeley law professor John Yoo, not Hong Kong director John Woo.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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13 Comments

  1. What University would hire him as a law professor? Don’t they know he promotes and defends torture? Glad I am not there, I’d be filled with disgust to know that he is.

  2. Here is an interesting backgrounder.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-thomas-yoo7-2010mar07,0,3782840.story
    It’s funny (or sad) but Yoo’s comments about Berkeley sound like many people’s criticisms of the new TV show “Parenthood” and its old hackneyed view of Berkeley. OK, yes, you can see tie-dye on the streets but it is a very tired and cliched version of the real thing. This man’s ego is as big as the Claremont (where he goes to work out, BTW.)

  3. I’ve lived in Berkeley for seven years, and I’ve met, oh, I don’t know, about 1,000 times more people who believe in upholding the Geneva Conventions than who support establishing a totalitarian collective.

    Seriously, for this kind of garbage to spill from this guy’s mouth at this very late date is further evidence of a psychotic martyr’s complex. I wouldn’t be able to trust a word this guy said in class, and I wouldn’t trust him to give me a grade with any connection to reality.

  4. Interesting. In my experience the people he’s complaining about keep complaining that Berkeley isn’t any of that anymore. The people he’s worried about are worried that we’re turning Berkeley into a place for people like him. Hmmmm…

  5. So CNN’s Peter Arnett is John Yoo’s father-in-law? I wonder if he calls him “Dad” when the in-laws come over? I’ve witnessed some of the Code Pink’s weekend actions in front of John Yoo’s property. If Peter happens to be coming in or out of the driveway, I wonder what his reaction might be?

  6. Still have a Woo reference:
    “But even a fierce conservative like Woo apparently can’t escape Berkeley’s charms.”

  7. “…even though he disparages the community as an enclave of self-satisfied extremists intolerant of those who think outside the liberal mind-set.”

    I feel the same way John, but that doesn’t mean I’d write a memo saying it was ok to torture them 🙂