he hates Congress …

Posted on Friday 27 June 2008

There he sat, hunched and scowling, at the witness table in front of the House Judiciary Committee: the bearded, burly form of the chief of staff and alter ego to the vice president — Cheney’s Cheney, if you will — and the man most responsible for building President Bush’s notion of an imperial presidency.

David Addington was there under subpoena, and wasn’t happy about it.

Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? "I’m not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of," Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws? "That’s irrelevant," he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee’s child? "I’m not here to render legal advice to your committee," he snarled. "You do have attorneys of your own."

He had the grace of Gollum as he quarreled with his questioners. In response to one of the chairman’s questions, he neither looked up nor spoke before finishing a note he was writing to himself. When Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) questioned his failure to remember conversations about interrogation techniques, he only looked at her and asked: "Is there a question pending, ma’am?" Finally, at the end of the hearing, Addington was asked whether he would meet privately to discuss classified matters. "You have my number," he said. "If you issue a subpoena, we’ll go through this again."

Think of Addington as the id of the Bush White House. Though his hidden hand is often merely suspected — in signing statements, torture policy and other brazen assertions of executive power — Addington’s unbridled hostility was live and unfiltered yesterday…
Throughout the contentious Hearing on the Torture policies yesterday, there were some notable moments. For me, the highlight came from Aurthus Davis [D-AL].  It stood out much as the performance of Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] in the DoJ Hearings. Mr. Davis followed up on Yoo’s answer that there were no precise definitions of Torture in the Congressional Record or in Judicial Decisions. Davis suggested that if Mr. Yoo or Mr. Addington had wanted to know what Congress meant by Torture, they could have simply asked, for example, the Committee Chairmen who had been involved in drafting the Legislation. Davis went on to point out that at the time these Memos were written, there was a Republican Congress that never refused any request from the White House. He said that neither Addington nor Yoo trusted even a "rubber-stamp" Congress. It was a strong point, well made.

But I think the point was not that the Administration didn’t trust Congress, not even that they didn’t respect Congress. Both of those things are true, to be sure. But with this Administration one has to be careful about motives. I think they didn’t consult Congress because they knew that what they wanted to do was neither morally nor legally justified. I believe they knew the same thing about the Iraq Invasion, so they made up a reason to do it that vaguely fit our way of life – but was a lie. Remember the Bush quote, "Stop talking to me about the Constitution! It’s just a piece of paper!"

Yesterday, both Addington and Yoo repeatedly brought up defending or adhering to the Constitution. But, to me, it sounds like James Dobson’s way of reading the Bible – a selective reading that leads to rigid conclusions already held. This Administration thinks that the Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, and Oversight are pesky encumberances that interfere with their ability to run things as they see fit. The Bush Administration has Policies, but no Values – to use the scheme of George Lakoff. [also at Berkley]. For all that Bush, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales, etc. say about the Constitution and matters patriotic, the truth is that our system is in the way of their doing what they want to do – and they’re facile at ignoring it. Addington’s disdain is actually directed at our system – it’s too stodgy for his liking. So he tweaks it as needed. As effective as Representative Davis’ comments were, they were a bit off the mark. Addington didn’t ask Congress because he hates Congress. It’s an enemy, in the way. He expresses that hatred by obliterating Congress in each Signing Statement he writes …
    June 27, 2008 | 7:49 AM

    What came to my mind when I saw the above picture is what a famous lawyer (I think his last name was Welch)said to the late Senator McCarthy during his horrible hearings for Communists, “Have you no shame”. Addington reminds me of one of those British aristocrats who looked down on those lowly American Revolutionaries during the war for our independence. He has to have ancestry in England, a Lord or Duke with a huge portrait over the fireplace with a name and face like Addington. His smugness and disdain performance was so natural for him.

    June 27, 2008 | 10:08 AM

    I just looked up Addington’s bio and I now know why he does such a good job of huffing and puffing. His Dad is a retired brigadier general and there is a Duke in his life, he is a graduate of Duke law school.

    June 27, 2008 | 4:17 PM

    Brigadier General! Boy does that ever fit…

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