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David S. Addington: A Second Act (Full Story)
Comments () | Published June 6, 2011
“Gutsy and tough” may play well from a White House perch, but it’s not a career enhancer. Having an “interesting” personality as well as successes in behind-the-scenes battles to advance Cheney’s policy preferences took a toll. The hearing blew Addington’s cover, laying bare his prickly personality and tying him to the administration’s increasingly unpopular policies. He also faced the reality that his political patron’s approval ratings were down. And he left some White House colleagues he had battled bloodied and battered.

Fast-forward to today and Addington seems different from his image. Asked whether the job hunt was tough because of animus toward him, he demurs: “Not hostility to me personally. I’ve been in and out of a couple of White Houses—my sense is that [the experience is different] for staffs of Presidents and Vice Presidents who stay till the end. The average stay is 18 months to two years.”

You pay a price, he says, for sticking around after an administration’s approval ratings have plummeted: “That’s one of the choices you make, and people for whom I have great regard could have gone out and done something [to make lots of money] but they made a commitment and stayed until the end. By and large, everybody settled in over time.” The President and his staff need you at the end just as much as at the beginning, he says.

But embarking on his post-White House career wasn’t easy: “I looked for a job and did projects for law firms and associations while I searched.”

Interviews with people familiar with the job market and with Addington say his explanation about the difficulties of the job hunt for those who remained until the end of the Bush administration is too benign. Sure, there’s a toll, but each case was different. Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales had trouble landing a position in part because of his showdowns on Capitol Hill over his inability, among other things, to explain why he’d approved the dismissal of a number of US Attorneys. He eventually resigned in 2007. Two years later, he was working as a recruiter for minority students and teaching a political-science course at Texas Tech University.

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Addington’s path to a prestigious law firm was impeded more by the risk-averse nature of those who run the firms.

“Law firms are businesses as well, and the vast majority of their clients would rather be out of the press than in the press,” says Bruce Fein, who worked with Addington in 1987 on the House-Senate committee investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal and served as an associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration. “They want to be under the radar screen. They are worried about losing all sorts of clients if Addington worked on this case or that case. It isn’t worth it.”

Stories of Addington’s bullying style, especially toward colleagues in the White House who questioned his expansive view of presidential powers, circulated widely. Former colleague Jack Goldsmith, who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in The Terror Presidency: “Addington’s seemingly superior knowledge combined with a fierce temper, a sarcastic manner, and the Vice President’s implicit backing make him an intimidating and effective advocate.” After many clashes with Addington, Goldsmith resigned his post after less than a year.

“What was written about him and his style is much more anathema in the corporate world than people think,” says a source who knows Addington and how Washington’s law firms operate. “It is not the way business is run. They don’t have their senior people behaving that way at meetings.”

“People will not want to associate with firms simply because he is a symbol of—whether you want to call it waterboarding or the abuses of the executive branch during the Bush administration,” Fein observes. “It doesn’t mean that all people feel that way, but if you are very, very conservative, you are shy about any kind of controversy.”

Former US solicitor general Ted Olson says it’s not uncommon for people leaving controversial posts to suffer in the job market. Sometimes they’re “a little bit radioactive,” he says. “Some people get lucky and escape any kind of that sort of thing, and some people don’t.”

Next: Heritage brings a second chance

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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 06/06/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles