On History's Front Lines from Watergate to the Keating Five, Clinton Impeachment, and Benghazi
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. BuchananSee all reviews...
“James Hamilton’s career illustrates the wide range of activities that the best of Washington lawyers may pursue in a lifetime. In his case that included, in addition to ordinary law practice, the Senate Watergate Committee, the Clinton impeachment, the Keating Five hearings, Travelgate and Vince Foster, Bob Novack in the Valerie Plame case, and the Benghazi tragedy, among others. There is also Hamilton’s role as ‘the dean of vetting,’ concerning candidates for vice presidency, the Supreme Court, and cabinet membership. Hamilton’s rigorous and fearless investigations lead to well-balanced and fair judgments about people and about the public policies at stake in the investigations. This is not only a fascinating book about law and politics, but a captivating treatment of the complex, seamier side of Washington. Thoroughness, confidentiality, and respect are among the guiding principles with which Hamilton approaches his tasks as an advocate in a vast array of situations. The book is a reassuring inspiration for citizens, aspiring and mature lawyers, as well as politicians.”
—Gerhard Casper, president emeritus of Stanford University, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, and former editor of The Supreme Court Review
“Jim Hamilton has had a front-row seat to some of the most important US political events of the last fifty years. I came to know him well—and he came to know me even better—in 2008 and 2016 as he led the team vetting Democrats for the vice-presidential nomination. He was thorough, respectful, direct, and discreet. This is a fascinating book about politics, but it is really a book about what it is to be a ‘good counsel.’ And when any of us holding office manage to accomplish something good, you can be sure that there are wonderful people like Jim Hamilton who are the unsung heroes of those achievements.”
— Senator Tim Kaine
“Jim Hamilton has been at the center of some of the most consequential political events in modern American history. Accomplished, multitalented, tough when needed, discreet always, he is also unusual among uber-lawyers—he is self-effacing and not egocentric! Hamilton has been the go-to lawyer in every conceivable political situation. With encounters and relationships that range from presidents to princes, but rarely with a public profile, he has had a major impact on politics, governance and the law. Advocate is a fascinating, enjoyable, and insightful guided tour through five decades of his life and career in Washington.”
—Norman Ornstein, senior fellow emeritus, American Enterprise Institute
“If you’re interested in what it was like to be in the middle of some of the most significant events in Washington, DC, over the past fifty years, with stories that haven’t been told before, this is the book for you.
Some of Jim’s presentations of the issues and what he learned focus on episodes that are generally well known such as Watergate, the impeachment of President Clinton, and the tragedy of Benghazi. But Jim also has fascinating stories to tell and insights to be gained from the challenges faced by senators and other powerful people under attack for actions they took. Some of the most poignant discussions, however, cover Jim’s representation of less powerful people in need of help, such as Marina Oswald and the family of Vincent Foster. Throughout Jim’s recollections, the joys and challenges of the practice of law in the public eye in Washington shine through.”
—John Koskinen, former IRS commissionerSee fewer reviews...