A Former Condi Advisor Told Her, 'Fear And Anxiety Were Exploited by Zealots And Fools'
Evidence Piles Up on Role of David Addington, 'Cheney's Cheney'
By Jon Ponder on 7/19/2008, 1:47pm PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.

The fact that hardly anyone has heard of David Addington is no accident. As chief of staff to Dick Cheney, he shares his boss's fetish for secrecy. But as reporters are finally zeroing in on what Bush officials have really been up to these last seven years, evidence continues to pile up about the key role Addington has played in the skullduggery. Some are even suggesting he could be tried for war crimes for his role in approving the torture of terror suspects.

In the video above, in an interview with Steve Clemons, editor of The Washington Note, Jane Mayer discusses Addington, whom she profiled in the New Yorker last year and who plays a central role in her new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, which Trish, my colleague at PR, wrote about this week.

The excerpt in the following transcript comes about 11 minutes into the interview. The quote mentioned by Mayer and Clemens is the last line in Mayer's book. It comes from Phillip Zelikow, a former counselor to Condoleeza Rice, who attempted to explain what went wrong within the administration after the attacks on September 11 this way: "Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools."

11:17

CLEMONS: One of the interesting things about your profile of David Addington ... is of all the players in this, he's the least known. He's not written about. David Ignatius wrote a great piece on him ... a headline on a short article, calling him "Cheney's Cheney." It's a term I like a lot.

MAYER: Perfect.

CLEMONS: But in your profile of Addington in the New Yorker, in 2006, you tell of Addington carrying a copy of the Constitution around in his pocket, but it's annotated in his views of the powers of succession.

MAYER: Yes.

CLEMONS: This is really bizarre. [Laughter.] ... Also there's a great vignette in the opener of this piece ... about Colin Powell at a football game, hearing about for the first time ... about the warrantless wiretaps. And he says, "It's Addington ... He doesn't care about the Constitution." But nonetheless David does carry the Constitution around with him. Can you share with us a little insight into this ...?

MAYER: The thing that --- and does he care about the Constitution? This is going to be important in the coming weeks and months because there's ... a growing drumbeat now about whether or not to treat some of these people and some of their decisions as war crimes, as war criminals and criminal acts.

CLEMONS: By whom?

MAYER: By some members of Congress, members of human rights groups, some of the legal activist groups. There's sort of a burbling up going on. I would say that from the reporting I've done that David Addington believes in a different interpretation of the Constitution. It's his own understanding of it. He... these people don't see themselves as criminals. And I had a very interesting conversation with Arthur Schlesinger, the late historian ... about this. We were talking about Bush versus Nixon. And his point of view was that Bush was by far the more dangerous president, he thought, because of some of the decisions he'd made had had such terrible consequences. And in particular, he cited torture as possibly putting the United States in its worst light in its history.

But he said of Nixon, he thought Nixon had a criminal mentality, and he did not think that was true of Bush. I think that Bush and the people around him were very convinced of the righteousness of what they were doing, which is why I come back to that quote from Phillip Zellicow, because it's playing off of Louis Brandeis' quote about zealots. They were zealots. I don't think they were criminals, at least not in their own minds.

Mayer says Arthur Schlesinger believed that, unlike Pres. Nixon's men, Bush officials did not have criminal intent when they authorized torture, wiretapped without warrants, exposed a CIA anti-WMD program for petty partisan revenge and the rest. What these fools and zealots intended when they committed their crimes might be interesting dinner table discussion, but intent is irrelevant in determining whether crime were committed.

Mayer also says there is a growing drumbeat in the capitol to charge high Bush officials like David Addington with war crimes. If so, these efforts should be directed toward the Hague, because pursuing them here will become moot later this year when Bush issues blanket pardons to all his henchmen --- probably on Christmas Eve, just as his father did in 1992, as he left office.