Last Year's Best Magazine Article Tells Story
Of How the Bush White House Really Works
As the Bush White House's serial disasters--from missing WMDs to the botched Katrina response to the Scooter Libby trial and then the fired U.S. Attorneys--begin to pile onto one another in accelerating fashion, it's getting hard to digest one disaster before the next one hits. They all have much in common, of course. At the bottom of them all is a blatant disregard for the rule of law and a basic inability to tell the truth. And at the bottom of all of that is a man named David Addington, who may be the purest expression of the heart of darkness at the center of the Cheney-Bush White House.
Last July, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine published an eye-opening profile of this lawyer who serves as Dick Cheney's chief of staff and longtime principal legal advisor, a man so secretive and ruthlessly effective that he has been dubbed "Cheney's Cheney." It gets my vote for the best magazine piece published in the U.S. in 2006.
Mayer is a remarkable writer and equally remarkable investigative reporter. Formerly with the Wall Street Journal, in the mid-'90s she teamed with then-fellow-WSJ reporter Jill Abramson (now managing editor of the New York Times) to write a devastating book, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, that told the real story behind Thomas' shameful Senate nomination hearings. Piercing the elder Bush's smokescreens was no doubt good training for untangling his son's far more serious brand of lawlessness.
Beginning his career in the general counsel's office of the CIA, Addington later became a special assistant and then general counsel of the Pentagon during Dick Cheney's term as secretary of defense, under the elder Bush. But even earlier, during the Reagan presidency, Addington was a rabid true believer. Mayer writes that "his sentiment about congressional overseers was best captured during a hearing about covert actions in Central America, when he responded to tough questioning by muttering the word 'assholes.'" She goes on to describe how he became the chief legal architect behind several of the most lawless features of the Bush II White House, including the president's executive order erecting secret military commissions and the raft of signing statements accompanying new legislation (which have tended to absurdly suggest that the White House disputes the clear intent of the legislation's language). He's even said to be the originator of then-White-House-Counsel Alberto Gonzales's infamous declaration that the Geneva Conventions are "quaint" and thus non-binding on the U.S. as it went about erecting its own answer to the infamous string of Soviet-era prisons for secretly detaining terror suspects.
And the point of all of these actions? Mayer concludes that along with his patron Dick Cheney, Addington (who is pictured in an illustration gleefully putting a copy of the U.S. Constitution through an office shredder) is fighting for post-Watergate restoration of presidential power. And if you have to shred the Constitution to do it, well, that's just a small price to pay.