Making a Mockery of Advocating Limited Government

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by Conor Friedersdorf

The Heritage Foundation has found a new Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies: David Addington.

Mr. Addington is a brilliant policy expert with over twenty years of senior experience at all levels and branches of governance. As a trusted advisor to two White Houses, the Defense Department and four congressional committees, Mr. Addington understands Washington and how policy ideas become law.  Most recently, Mr. Addington served in the Office of the Vice President, first as Dick Cheney’s counsel and later as his chief of staff.

What exactly did he do as Dick Cheney's chief of staff? Jane Mayer sums it up nicely in this New Yorker piece:

Most Americans, even those who follow politics closely, have probably never heard of Addington. But current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration’s legal strategy for the war on terror. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars sharenamely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on national-security issues said that the Administration’s legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, “all Addington.” Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was “an unopposable force.”

In other words, The Heritage Foundation now employs a man who has done more than almost anyone else to advocate radical expansions in the power of the federal government, including torture and warrantless spying on American citizens. On its About Page, the organization claims to advocate for "limited government" and says it believes "the principles and ideas of the American Founding are worth conserving and renewing."

There are a lot of employees at Heritage who actually do believe in those principles.

Can any of them defend this personnel choice?

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