In smaller words, here’s what I’m saying; Bush, Cheney, and Rummy aren’t lawyers, God knows (whereas the only person in the Clinton White House who wasn’t a lawyer was Al Gore). Yet, Bush’s post-9/11 military tribunals, “extraordinary rendition,” “signing statements,” and the warrantless spying show that someone in this bunch has enough sheer, utter, unmitigated contempt for our government mixed with legal knowledge (and a totally pliant Repug congress and corporate media to help, of course) to enact all of this (as well as the force of will, I have to grudgingly admit).
That person (the only one in Bushco who IS a lawyer, by the way) is David Addington.
I’ve been meaning to get to this for a couple of weeks, and I’ll do so now. Reporter Jane Mayer wrote a highly illuminating (and frightening, truth be told) article on Addington in The New Yorker’s July 3rd issue.
As Mayer reported, Addington has made his sorry name by being Dick Cheney’s right hand man, and their relationship in Washington D.C. goes back about 20 years.
Conventional wisdom holds that September 11th changed everything, including the thinking of Cheney and Addington. Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, has said of Cheney that he barely recognizes the reasonable politician he knew in the past. But a close look at the twenty-year collaboration between Cheney and Addington suggests that in fact their ideology has not changed much. It seems clear that Addington was able to promote vast executive powers after 9/11 in part because he and Cheney had been laying the political groundwork for years. “This preceded 9/11,” says Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist with ties to both the current administration and that of Ronald Reagan. “I’m not saying that warrantless surveillance did. But the idea of reducing Congress to a cipher was already in play. It was Cheney and Addington’s political agenda.”Are you reading this, you glorious red staters? Did you have any clue as to the horrors you have unleashed by installing this ruling cabal (notwithstanding election fraud)?
Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who has spent considerable time working with Cheney and Addington in recent years, believes that they are still fighting Watergate. “They’re focused on restoring the Nixon Presidency,” she said. “They’ve persuaded themselves that, following Nixon, things went all wrong.” She said that in meetings Addington is always courtly and pleasant. But when it comes to accommodating Congress “his answer is always no.”
And this gives you a hint as to the degree of Addington’s megalomania.
When the Iran-Contra scandal broke, in 1986, it exposed White House arms deals and foreign fund-raising designed to help the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua. Members of Congress were furious. Summoned to Capitol Hill, (former CIA director William) Casey lied, denying that funds for the Contras had been solicited from any foreign governments, although he knew that the Saudis, among others, had agreed to give millions of dollars to the Contras, at the request of the White House. Even within the Reagan Administration, the foreign funding was controversial. Secretary of State George Shultz had warned Reagan that he might be committing an impeachable offense. But, under Casey’s guidance, the White House went ahead with the plan; Shultz, having expressed misgivings, was not told. It was a bureaucratic tactic that Addington reprised after September 11th, when (former Secretary of State Colin) Powell was left out of key deliberations about the treatment of detainees (at Guantanamo). Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s aide, said that he was aware of Addington’s general strategy: “We had heard that, behind our backs, he was saying that Powell was ‘soft, but easy to get around’.”(The excellent book “Veil” by Bob Woodward gets into all of the Iran-Contra stuff, by the way.)
OK, let’s think about this for a second. Here we have Addington, who attended Annapolis after Vietnam but apparently walked away from it because he felt he wasn’t challenged enough (as noted by Mayer), calling Colin Powell – Colin Powell, a GENERAL with A LIST OF MILITARY CITATIONS THAT IS ABOUT AS LONG AS MY ARM – “soft.”
I honestly can’t come up with a word for that type of cowardly arrogance.
Addington’s high school friend Leonard Napolitano (brother of Arizona governor Janet) said Addington told him that he and Cheney were merging the Vice-President’s office with the President’s into a single “Executive Office,” instead of having “two different camps.” Napolitano added, “David said that Cheney saw the Vice-President as the executive and implementer of the President.”Considering that Dubya is still taking up space in the Oval Office, that actually has a hint of lunatic logic to it.
And here is an example of Addington “in action.”
Richard Shiffrin, the former Pentagon lawyer, said that during a tense White House meeting held in the Situation Room just a few days after September 11th “all of us felt a great deal of pressure to be willing to consider even the most extraordinary proposals. The CIA, the NSC, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department all had people there. Addington was particularly strident. He’d sit, listen, and then say, ‘No, that’s not right.’ He was particularly doctrinaire and ideological. He didn’t recognize the wisdom of the other lawyers. He was always right. He didn’t listen. He knew the answers.” The details of the discussion are classified, Shiffrin said, but he left with the impression that Addington “doesn’t believe there should be co-equal branches.” Another participant recalled, “If you favored international law, you were in danger of being called ‘soft on terrorism’ by Addington.” He added that Addington’s manner in meetings was “very insistent and very loud.” Yet another participant said that, whenever he cautioned against executive-branch overreaching, Addington would respond brusquely, “There you go again, giving away the President’s power.”This debunks the two historical precedents that Bushco frequently cites for its serial abuses of its high office.
“…this White House has assumed powers for itself that no previous administration has done,” according to liberal Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. Bush’s defenders frequently cite the example of Lincoln as a justification for placing national security above the rule of law. But (historian Arthur) Schlessinger, in his book “War and the American Presidency” (2004), points out that Lincoln “never claimed an inherent and routine right to do what (he) did.” The Bush White House, he told me, has seized on these historical aberrations and turned them into a doctrine of Presidential prerogative.And what does the military think of all of this? I’m glad you asked.
The precedent (for Bush’s military commissions after 9/11) was an arcane 1942 case, ex parte Quirin, in which Franklin Roosevelt created a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs who had infiltrated the United States via submarines. The Supreme Court upheld the case 8-0, but even the conservative justice Antonin Scalia has called it “not this court’s finest hour.”
Marine Major Dan Mori, the uniformed lawyer who has been assigned to defend David Hicks, one of the ten terrorist suspects in Guantanamo who have been charged, said of the commissions, “It was a political stunt. The Administration clearly didn’t know anything about military law or the laws of war. I think they were clueless that there even was a (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and a Manual for Courts Martial! The fundamental problem is that the rules were constructed by people with a vested interest in conviction.”And what of historical precedent?
Rear Admiral Donald Guter, who was the Navy’s chief JAG until June 2002, said that the Pentagon had originally planned to screen (terrorist) suspects individually on the battlefields of Afghanistan; such “Article 5” hearings are a provision of the Geneva Conventions. But the White House cancelled the hearings, which had been standard protocol during the previous fifty years, including in the first Gulf War. In a January 25, 2002 legal memorandum, Administration lawyers dismissed the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete,” “quaint,” and irrelevant to the war on terror. The memo was signed by (Attorney General Alberto) Gonzales, but the Administration lawyer believed that “Addington and (Gonzales deputy Timothy) Flanigan were behind it.” The memo argued that all Taliban and al Qaeda detainees were illegal enemy combatants, which eliminated “any argument regarding the need for case-by-case determination of POW status.” Critics claim that the lack of a careful screening process led some innocent detainees to be imprisoned. “Article 5 hearings would have cost them nothing,” the Administration lawyer, who was involved in the process, said. “They just wanted to make a point on executive power – that the President can designate all enemy combatants if he wants to.”
(Republican legal activist) Bruce Fein argues that Addington’s signing statements are “unconstitutional as a strategy,” because the Founding Fathers wanted presidents to veto legislation openly if they thought the bills were unconstitutional (as opposed to what Dubya does, which is to sign the bill but note through the signing statement that he didn’t feel obligated to act in accordance with it).I’m sure you’re having as hard a time as I am finding any possible good news in something like this. But looking really, REALLY hard into it, it bears mentioning that the people who primarily helped install Bushco – overwhelmingly white, male voters, many of whom are, alas, Catholic, as well as other faiths, in an age group of somewhere between 28 and about 50 or so – will NOT be the ones who will be tasked with having to put things right in this country (and I’m talking about aggregate numbers here, since the group I just mentioned is in decline).
Fein continues: “The Founders really understood the history of that people did with power, going back to the Greek and Roman and Biblical times. Our political heritage is to be skeptical of executive power, because, in particular, there was skepticism of King George III. But Cheney and Addington are not students of history. If they were, they’d know the Founding Fathers would be shocked by what they’ve done.”
No, the people upon whom this burden will fall (wrongly, unfortunately) are individuals in their late teens and early-to-mid 20s who MUST organize and become politically active lest they have nothing left to inherit from the regime that is tying to erase everything this country has ever stood for.
And these individuals primarily are watching Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher, and they’re listening to people like Randi Rhodes and Air America, and they’re reading Atrios, The Daily Kos, firedoglake, The Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, ThinkProgress, Talk Left, Americablog, Media Matters For America, The Smirking Chimp, Brandoland, Down With Tyranny, Political Skullduggery, The Existentialist Cowboy, James Wolcott, Steve Gillard, David Sirota, Working For Change, Liberal Oasis, and many other fine individuals (including the "Impeach Bush" coalition, of course...and if I’m really lucky, they’re actually reading this site also).
And actually, those in the older demographic are shifting in that direction also – Chris Bowers notes this and more in this comprehensive post on the demographics of blog activists.
Aside from pointing out why the issue of Net Neutrality is so important, I’m also trying to explain why it’s crucial that we obtain the best information we can and remain engaged in the process at all times (and do what we can to organize and communicate what we know with others, which is dicey at times I know, in the hope of promoting informed dialogue now and always).
Addington and Bushco could not have done their damage to date – as well as the damage they may YET do, unfortunately – without the help of a lot of ignorance and neglect on the part of WAY too many people.
And doing all we can to fight that must be the reason why we communicate what we can to the world, and fight our activist fight, each and every day.
Update 7/24: Nope, I'm not crazy, at least not on this issue anyway (according to this group, and they would know).