LETTING ADDINGTON OFF THE HOOK….Here is Dana Milbank’s take on David Addington’s congressional testimony yesterday:

There he sat, hunched and scowling, at the witness table in front of the House Judiciary Committee: the bearded, burly form of the chief of staff and alter ego to the vice president — Cheney’s Cheney, if you will — and the man most responsible for building President Bush’s notion of an imperial presidency.

David Addington was there under subpoena. And he wasn’t happy about it.

Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? “I’m not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of,” Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws? “That’s irrelevant,” he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee’s child? “I’m not here to render legal advice to your committee,” he snarled. “You do have attorneys of your own.”

OK, so Addington is not only an arrogant prick, he’s the kind of person who revels in being an arrogant prick. We’ve seen the type before and we’ll see it again: smart, well-briefed, and completely convinced of his own self-righteousness.

But there’s another aspect to this that never gets the attention it deserves: the Judiciary Committee members knew the kind of person Addington was. They knew he was smart and well-briefed and arrogant — and therefore difficult to question. But they all insisted on their ten minutes of glory anyway. Obviously the Republican members wouldn’t have given up their time in order to put Addington under more pressure, but why weren’t the Democrats willing to give up their collective time and turn it over to a staff member who was Addington’s equal and could have grilled him for a consecutive hour or two? That’s the only way it was even remotely plausible that they’d get anything useful out of him.

Instead we had a bunch of amateurs tossing easily evaded questions at him for a few minutes apiece. It was tailor-made to allow Addington to get away with saying nothing, and that’s exactly what he did. Next time the politicians ought to pack away their egos and let someone else take the stage.

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