Jacob Heilbrunn

David Addington's Return to Power

David Addington is coming out of the shadows. Addington, who served as legal counsel for vice-president Dick Cheney, is joining the Heritage Foundation as vice president of domestic and economic policy studies. He earned a reputation as the most hardline of hardliners--Cheney's Cheney--during his Bush administration tenure. In a fascinating profile in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer deemed Addington the legal mind behind the war on terror. Now Addington is returning to the political fray.

Fresh memories of the Bush-Cheney era will doubtless be stirred among both liberal and conservative critics of the imperial presidency and the approval of torture that were the hallmarks of the Bush administration's approach to battling terrorism. But how different, in the end, has the Obama's administration's stance been? Guantanamo remains open. There has been no attempt to prosecute CIA officials. In a sense, Cheney and Addington and John Yoo have prevailed. (Yoo, or at least his conception of presidential power, has even been defended by Gordon Wood in the pages of the National Interest.)

The most interesting aspect of the Addington appointment is that it may signal a fresh effort by Heritage to reinject itself into policy debates. In the 1980s, Heritage was a prominent voice in conservative economic and foreign policy debates. In recent years, it has not (with the exception of pushing for questioning President Obama's push for arms-control treaties with Russia). Addington could revitalize Heritage, staking out a hardline and drawing in many former Bush administration officials to form a kind of shadow government opposed to the Obama administration. It will be interesting to see if Heritage invites Sarah Palin to hold an address.

Addington has traditionally operated in the background. Will he now attempt to stake out a leading and public role? His new post could signal nothing less than a return to power for Addington.