Monday, January 30, 2006
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Hey, I actually do know Jack
Fifteen months ago, Dana Milbank had a Washington Post story that touched on the tension that existed between David Addington, Vice President Cheney's longtime lawyer and new chief of staff, and other national security lawyers in the administration:
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president....I dredge this up because Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas have written a much fuller account (and some regretfully overripe language) of this tension within the administration for Newsweek (link via Orin Kerr):
James Comey, a lanky, 6-foot-8 former prosecutor who looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. The press and public hardly noticed. Comey's farewell speech, delivered in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, contained all the predictable, if heartfelt, appreciations. But mixed in among the platitudes was an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right—and to doing the right thing—whatever the price. These people," said Comey, "know who they are. Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way."Read the whole thing. I have nothing to add but this -- I've known Jack Goldsmith for many years from his time at the University of Chicago. If you think that Goldsmith is either a RINO or a squishy "must kowtow to all forms of international law" kind of guy, well, then you don't know Jack.
The fact that Addington, Cheney, and by extension Bush managed to force out people like Goldsmith and Comey means that the legal consensus within the administration is way, way outside the legal mainstream.
Oh, and one other thing: Henry Farrell is right. Those who criticized Goldsmith's appointment to Harvard Law School on ethical grounds (click here for one example) have a hell of a lot of crow to consume.
I hate to sound like a broken record on this subject, but the amazing thing about this story is the central influence exercised by a staffer to the Vice President.
Prior to the Clinton administration this idea would have been considered almost literally crazy by any occupant of the Oval Office, and even Clinton gave his Vice President only a modestly larger policy role than Carter, say, had given Walter Mondale. The Bush administration by contrast almost brings to life the bizarre "co-presidency" idea briefly kicked around before the 1980 Republican convention.
At that time the idea was that a "dream ticket" of the hardline conservative Reagan and the less conservative but personally popular Gerald Ford might be worth an unprecedented amount of power-sharing (to his credit, the one person who gave this idea shortest shrift was Reagan himself). What we see today is less complicated -- it is simply the product of a very weak President, so disengaged from policymaking and distrustful of his own Cabinet secretaries that he must rely on his Vice President just to keep the executive branch functioning.
No one has ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or disengaged from the business of running a campaign. Evidently in early 21st century Presidential politics that is the only ting that matters.posted by: Zathras on 01.30.06 at 02:35 PM [permalink]
Wait a minute.
Would you consider the witness who refuses to testify at a criminal trial ethical?posted by: mawado on 01.30.06 at 02:35 PM [permalink]
Adding to mawado's excellent point, Dan: so you think that people should eat crow for criticizing somebody on the basis of the available information? Especially considering that, if some of these opponents of unlimited presidential power had gone public back before Nov 2004, when it mattered, we might have kicked Bush out of the Oval Office?posted by: Barry on 01.30.06 at 02:35 PM [permalink]
If their stick is true then they should tell it to congress. Or do you think congress wouldn't like to hear things that embarass the president?
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