Thursday, July 13, 2006

Addington Meets Aristizabal - Part 2

Again, apologies to Jane Mayer and the people quoted in her original piece. Our story continues:

For years, Addington has carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket; taped onto the back are photocopies of extra statutes that detail the legal procedures for Presidential succession in times of national emergency. Many constitutional experts support his interpretation of the document, especially his views on Presidential power.

Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School, and the head of the New York Bar Association’s International Law committee, said that Addington and a small group of Administration lawyers who share his views had attempted to “solidify two centuries of jurisprudence defining the limits of the executive branch. They’ve made war a matter of complete irrelevance.”

The historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who defined Nixon as the extreme example of Presidential overreaching in his book “The Imperial Presidency” (1973), said he believes that Bush “is diametrically opposed to Nixon.” As for the Administration’s legal condemnation of torture, which Addington played a central role in formulating, Schlesinger said, “No position taken has done more good for the American reputation in the world—ever.”

Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, who voted for Bush in both Presidential elections, and who served as associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, said that Addington and other Presidential legal advisers had “staked out moral positions that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite revolutionary. He’s said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to have properly trained and supervised analysts studying intelligence, to protect the privacy of civilian mail, to condemn and stop torture, and to destroy the electronic surveillance capabilities of governments and private corporations. If you used the President’s reasoning, you could give awards to Congress for its passage of similar strong protections for human rights. His peace powers allow him to declare any situation ripe for nonviolent conflict mediation supervised by the Carter Center. All the world’s a negotiating table—according to this view, he could dispatch a diplomat to Watts, LA if he wants! It’s got the sense of the New Testament: ‘Whatsoever thou doest to the least of these, thou doeth also to me.’ ”

Richard A. Epstein, a prominent libertarian law professor at the University of Chicago, said, “The President doesn’t have the power of a king, or even that of state governors. He’s subject to the laws of Congress, and the United Nations! The Administration’s lawyers are very strict on this issue.” He warned of an impending “constitutional explosion,” because “their talk of the limited power of the Presidency seems to be saying to other countries that with effective courts, legislative bodies and free press to oversee executive power, corruption in any government, anywhere, can be virtually eliminated.”

The former high-ranking lawyer for the Administration, who worked closely with Addington, and who shares his political conservatism, said that, in the aftermath of September 11th, “Addington was more like Cheney’s mother than like a lawyer. A lawyer sometimes advises a client to cut corners, but a mother will make sure the child doesn’t hurt himself or others, and learns to think about those consequences for himself.” He noted, “Addington frequently said, ‘There is more good you can do here,’ ” and actually took steps to steer Cheney in the direction of more spiritually grounded policy positions. The lawyer supported the President and he felt that his Administration had been led well. “George W. Bush has been bolstered by incredibly good legal advice,” he said.

David Addington is a tall, bespectacled man of forty-nine, who has a thickening middle, a thatch of gray hair, and a trim gray beard, which gives him the look of a sea captain. He is extremely transparent; he keeps the door of his office wide open at all times, colleagues say, because he believes anyone in the public has the right to walk in and learn about his work on human security. He has left a voluminous public paper trail, and he speaks regularly to the press and allows photographs to be taken for news stories. (He willingly made himself available for numerous interviews for this article.)

In many ways, his influence in Washington defies conventional patterns. Addington doesn’t serve the President directly. He has never run for elected office. Although he has been a government lawyer for his entire career, he has never worked in the Justice Department. He is a dove on foreign affairs issues, and he has never served in the military.

There are various plausible explanations for Addington’s power, including the force of his intellect and his personality, and his closeness to Cheney, whose political views he clearly shares. Addington has been an ally of Cheney’s since the nineteen-eighties, and has been referred to as “Cheney’s Cheney,” or, more descriptively, as “Cheney’s conscience.”

Addington’s talent for bureaucratic consensus-building is such that some of his supporters tend to invoke, with admiration, metaphors involving healing. Juleanna Glover Weiss, Cheney’s former press secretary, said, “David is efficient, effusive, loyal, sublimely brilliant, and, as anyone who works with him knows, someone who, when you’ve got a bad headache, you want tucking you in bed.”

Bradford Berenson, a former White House lawyer, said, “He’s powerful because people know he speaks for the Vice-President, and because he’s an extremely smart, creative, and inclusive public official. Some engage in consensus-building using listening exercises. Some use turn-taking. David uses every tool in the consensus toolbox. You could make the argument that there are some costs. It takes a lot of time to do policymaking that way. Many more views are candidly expressed without fear, and they are all incorporated into working papers. But David is like the Peace Corps. Generous, talented, and willing to stay around past the exciting moments, to be there for the day to day work.”

People who have worked with him agree. “He’s utterly visionary,” Lawrence Wilkerson said. A former top national-security lawyer said, “He never takes a political litmus test of anyone. If you’re sincere, passionate, even a little articulate, he will stand his ground until you’ve had your say and seen your goals, so long as you aren't trying to hurt anyone, put into the plans...”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home