The merits of Addington's arguments about the need to oppose Boehner's proposals are in some ways less interesting than the simple fact that Addington is the one publicly making them. Addington kept a low profile during the Bush years, granting no interviews and largely shunning lawmakers from either party. But he wielded enormous power behind the scenes, helping Cheney craft the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program and most of its detention initiatives.
Critics of those policies say they're horrified by Addington's reemergence onto the public stage.
"To see this person who led the country into legal and moral disaster resurface as a respected commentator is somewhat galling," said Ben Wizner, the litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. "Addington was as responsible as anyone else for the U.S. becoming a torturing nation. He has done damage to the U.S. that will take decades to reverse."
Addington didn't respond to e-mails seeking comment, but Heritage Foundation spokesman James Weidman noted that Addington had handled domestic issues for Cheney as well as national-security ones.
"There being no weightier domestic or econ policy at this particular time than the debt-limit negotiations, he's our top dog in that area and that's why he's weighing in on it," Weidman said. "I realize that his career has been largely focused on security issues but then again that started to change when he went to work for Cheney because his portfolio covered the waterfront there, domestic as well as foreign and defense."
During the Bush years, Addington was known for carrying around a modified copy of the Constitution that contained pages of detailed--though legally questionable--policies for ensuring presidential succession after a cataclysmic terrorist attack. Addington believed that the executive branch had the power to pursue the war on terror without congressional or judicial oversight and was a staunch proponent of using harsh measures--including some widely seen as torture--against suspected al-Qaida operatives. The Washington Post referred to him as "Cheney's Cheney" and "the man most responsible for building President Bush's notion of an imperial presidency."
Today, Addington is enjoying an unexpected second life in an even more heated debate than the torture fight that clouded his years working for Cheney.
In a column posted on Monday on Heritage's website, Addington argued that conservatives should mobilize to block Boehner's current proposal for a short-term debt-ceiling increase centered around a package of spending cuts and the creation of a joint select congressional committee charged with finding other ways of bringing down the yawning deficit.
"Debt-limit legislation should drive down federal spending on the way to a balanced budget, while preserving the ability to protect America, and without raising taxes," Addington wrote. "The plan suggested by [Boehner] fails to meet that objective--indeed, it sets America up for tax hikes."