On History's Front Lines from Watergate to the Keating Five, Clinton Impeachment, and Benghazi

James Hamilton
Foreword by David Ignatius

For more than half a century, James Hamilton has been an active participant and an inside observer of some of the most consequential moments in modern US history. He has been involved in investigations concerning Watergate, the Kennedy assassination, “Debategate,” the Keating Five, the Clinton impeachment, Vince Foster’s suicide, the Valerie Plame affair, Benghazi, and the Major League Baseball steroids scandal. He argued against Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court and won. He has tales to tell of power brokers, players, and politicians who helped steer the course of the country.

Written in clear, incisive prose with self-deprecating humor, Advocate discusses the travails of prominent politicians and other well-known individuals, focusing particularly on high-profile congressional and other investigations. Credited with developing the modern system for vetting Democratic vice-presidential candidates, Hamilton recounts his extensive vetting of vice-presidential, cabinet, and Supreme Court candidates—including Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This book concludes with practical, sage advice for young lawyers entering the profession.

Much more than a memoir from a seasoned lawyer, Advocate is a richly detailed history of some of the most sensational and controversial events in Washington politics over the past fifty years. By sharing information and insights known only to him, Hamilton fills in the gaps of historical events while advising the public on lessons that can be learned from the past. Anyone interested in the uniquely American intermingling of law and politics will find this an engaging read.

“Throughout Jim Hamilton’s life, family and the rule of law have had only one competitor for his passionate commitment: tennis. Through Southern front-porch yarns, Advocate serves up instructive, professional rallies from his center-court matches in stadiums of power, where Hamilton demonstrates incredibly consistent baseline strokes, defensive lobs, powerful returns, unsuspected drop-shots and cross-court winners, seizing advantage in surprisingly different sets, straddling judicial lines and political alleys, admitting faults, coping with partners’ poaches and opponents’ backhands, consistently refraining from ‘spin,’ and always honoring the legal game’s rules and traditions. Some of his cases, surprisingly, are decided by suspenseful tiebreakers. But never does this advocate treat the practice of law as a ‘racket.’

Advocate is a treasure trove of unforgettable yarns about colorful public figures, each tale with political insights for both Washington insiders and curious citizens as well as practical lessons for veteran and newly minted lawyers alike. With his unvarnished, small-town Southern style, keen Yale-Law smarts, and firsthand sagas from historic arenas, Jim Hamilton brings to life the Senate Watergate hearings, vetting of Cabinet and US Supreme Court nominees, a presidential impeachment trial, civil rights courtroom strategies, mock trials and grand juries, lions of Congress, and even the British Royal Family. His career illustrates an extraordinary alchemy of intellect, competence, character, and an uncommon degree of common sense, worthy of—if one were to be awarded—a Nobel Prize for Trustworthiness.”

—Phil Lader, former US ambassador to the Court of St James’s

“James Hamilton’s Advocate is an insightful and compelling memoir from a Washington insider who has witnessed countless significant events in American politics for decades. Hamilton makes good on his promise that the stories told are, in fact, lessons from history that represent the intersection of law and politics. This is an essential read for anyone looking to better understand the true nature of political power in Washington.”

—Lori Cox Han, author of Advising Nixon: The White House Memos of Patrick J. Buchanan
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About the Author

James Hamilton is a retired partner from the Morgan Lewis law firm.