Architect of Bush Torture and Spy Policies is Tea Party Point man at Heritage Foundation

David Addington

Wow, these ultra-right-wingers are like zombies. They never stop, they never die. They just keep popping up again and again where you least expect them.

Remember David Addington? He was the secretive, publicity-shy legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001-2005. Later, after Scooter Libby was forced to step down because of his involvement in the Valerie Plame outing, Addington replaced him as Cheney’s Chief of Staff from 2005-2009.

Addington was heavily involved in designing the Bush administration’s torture and NSA wiretapping policies. In addition, his was the legal mind behind Bush’s hundreds of signing statements and generally was a powerful force in the Bush administration’s efforts to expand executive power.

You’d think someone who had been involved in such execrable behavior would have the good grace to slink away and never be heard from again, but that’s not how it works with these psychopathic types. Today, according to The National Journal,

Addington has taken on a new role as enforcer of tea party dogma during the intensifying partisan bickering over the debt ceiling. From his perch as the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, Addington is throwing verbal thunderbolts at House Speaker John Boehner’s current debt-ceiling proposal, which he argues will pave the way to tax increases.

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.”

Indeed. Especially because we’ll have to wait until President Obama leaves office before much reversing takes place–if it ever does. But I digress. Addington’s new role is to help keep the Tea Party Caucus in line while undercutting House Speaker Boehner. How very very interesting. At the New Republic, Jonathan Chait called it “Hot Republican-On-Republican Action.”

The internecine fighting among conservatives over the Boehner plan has much of the same ideological and stylistic feel of a late 1960′s feud pitting left-wing factions that favor immediate violence against those seeking more time to radicalize the masses. The less-extreme faction clearly has the better of the argument, yet the overwhelming impression is the sheer fanaticism of the whole political subculture.

Is it possible this GOP infighting could be helpful to our side? Addington’s greatest concern about the Boehner plan is that it includes the “committee” that we have been calling “Catfood Commission II.” Addington fears that because this group will have the power to write legislation that cannot be amended and must be voted on up or down, they might end up proposing new taxes. Now I never thought of that possibility! Here’s Addington blogging at the Heritage Foundation website on Monday:

The second step in the [Boehner] plan is a set of recommendations from a new dozen-member joint select committee of Congress. The committee’s recommendations to Congress would not be subject to amendments and would get a straight up-or-down vote. The plan directs the committee to propose reductions in the deficit by at least $1.8 trillion over 10 years. The government runs a deficit when it spends more than it takes in from Americans as taxes, and the government has run deficits in most years for decades. As always, there are two ways to reduce a bloated government’s deficit — the right way of cutting spending and the wrong way of hiking taxes. While the second step of the Boehner plan may produce some useful spending cuts, the second step also allows the Committee to propose raising taxes as part of its unamendable, fast-track legislative package. Thus, the second step greases the way for tax hikes.

As you can imagine, taxes are anathema to Addington.

Tax hikes in a weak economy slow economic growth and kill jobs. As students of American history (or the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) know, enactment of the tax hike known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act during the Great Depression hurt the already weak economy and made unemployment worse. Job-killing tax hikes in the current weak economy, as millions of Americans go without jobs and the unemployment hovers above 9 percent, will have a similar effect. However good the intentions of the drafters of the Boehner plan may have been, the plan sets up America for higher taxes and fewer jobs. Conservatives should continue to fight plans that either hike taxes now or set America up for tax hikes in the future.

Now wait a minute. I know Dakinikat will have plenty to say about that last paragraph–if she can get away from all the student exams and papers she’s grading. But I’ll take a crack at it even though I am not an economist.

Tarriffs are not equivalent to income taxes. The Smoot-Hawley Tarriff Act was raised tarriffs so high that our trading partners retaliated with their own tarriffs, leading to dramatic decreases in U.S. imports and exports. Now that is a job-killing tax. That is not the same thing as restoring the tax rates on the rich to Clinton administration levels and perhaps making the children of the super-rich pay a little more in estate taxes. As Dakinikat is fond of saying, if cutting taxes led to job creation, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. The Bush tax cuts would have taken care of everything.

Addington summed up his insane economic theories in another post, written in response to President Obama’s speech on Monday night.

Americans sent a message in the election of 2010 — cut the size and cost of government. Conservatives must act now to drive down spending on the way to a balanced budget, while protecting America, and without raising taxes. Forget the McConnell, McConnell-Reid, Coburn, Gang-of-Six, Boehner, and Reid plans. Go with the American plan — cut government spending, deeply and right now, for the good of the country.

Man, he’s looney-tunes!

Anyway, I think it’s just fascinating that Addington is leading the charge against the Boehner plan and pushing for an even crazier one. Addington has a history of accomplishing a great deal. What he accomplished was evil, of course, but he showed himself to be highly competent and efficient, unlike President Pushover. This battle could be really entertaining. I’m hoping for a major Republican meltdown.