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David S. Addington: A Second Act (Full Story)
Comments () | Published June 6, 2011
Some of Addington’s supporters insist that the media portrayal of him is one-dimensional. When he first sat down to chat with Addington about the possibility of coming to Heritage, Stuart Butler—who has been at Heritage since 1979 and headed the think tank’s domestic-policy shop for almost 30 years—found that the tall, bespectacled lawyer was far different than what he’d expected. Butler really didn’t know Addington personally before a 90-minute breakfast at Union Station.

Says Butler: “The way I described it to other people around here is if you sat down with Addington at a Nationals game and he just happened to be sitting next to you and you were talking about the game, let’s say you didn’t ask where he worked. And then he left and you [find out] he was chief of staff to Cheney, [you] would have been surprised. I found him self-effacing. I found him humorous. I found him not the sort of tough-as-nails sort—he just didn’t seem like that.”

Butler now heads a new division of Heritage, the Center for Policy Innovation, “a think tank within a think tank,” as Feulner describes it. Its ambitious goal is to come up with the next generation of breakthrough ideas. But recognizing that a change in leadership can be traumatic for staff, especially in this case, in which he had run the show for so many years, Butler reassured them about Addington, essentially telling them not to believe what they had read.

"I found him self-effacing. I found him humorous. I found him not the sort of tough-as-nails sort—he just didn't seem like that."

That reassurance was especially important because, although those in the domestic shop knew that Addington was Cheney’s chief of staff and some had dealt with his office previously, they didn’t seem to know him well. Addington’s lack of an extensive background on domestic policy and his aversion to the spotlight also made him an unusual choice for an important post at an aggressive think tank that seeks to score points for the conservative cause, from killing the recently passed health-care legislation to making permanent the tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush.

A person at a rival think tank—and an admirer of Addington’s—expresses puzzlement: “Being at a think tank and being as press-shy as he is and appearance-shy, that is a strange combination. Part of what we do is the generation and promotion of ideas. And that involves talking to people about them. He is not somebody who has ever shown any interest in that side of the game before.”

But Butler notes that his own background didn’t appear to make him a good fit for Heritage when he came aboard more than three decades ago. Imagine the discussions before they hired him, he says: “ ‘Let’s bring this guy from Britain who isn’t even an American citizen to be in charge of domestic policy.’ I was not the most obvious guy to pick. I think [hiring Addington] is very much in keeping with that. I had a certain background, and I had certain technical expertise—a PhD in American history—but I hadn’t served on Capitol Hill. I had never worked in government.

“Addington is not coming in to say, ‘I know more about domestic policy than the people I am going to be managing here, so I am going to push them.’ ” Butler adds. “We have made what a lot of people here [see as] a counterintuitive choice, but I think it is more likely to be successful than to try to sort of clone me with a more American accent.”

Next: Heritage's future as a top think tank in the US

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