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Before the Bush White House, Mr. Hadley’s last senior post was that of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney’s chief adviser on European affairs. Then, as now, aides remember him as a workmanlike policy-maker who stuck firmly to talking points, whether in a one-on-one NATO meeting in Brussels or in briefing the press afterward.

He parked himself in the 1990s at the D.C. law firm of Shea & Gardner, delving into the complex world of commercial law and litigation. Then Mr. Bush won the 2000 Florida recount, and Mr. Hadley has been inside the White House ever since, making him one of only a handful of eight-year political appointees.

“He is even more low-key than was Rice as national security director,” Mr. Feith said.

Mr. Hadley may be low-key, but on occasion his profile has burst forth in embarrassing miscues.

He took the blame for not properly screening Mr. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. It referred to disputed intelligence on Iraq-Niger nuclear ties. He offered to resign, but the president kept him on.

In November 2006, as the Iraq debacle led to big Republican election losses, The New York Times published a secret Hadley memo to Mr. Bush that criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Publicly, the White House had had nothing but praise for the Shi’ite leader

“The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action,” Mr. Hadley wrote.

Mr. Hadley stubbornly stuck by the administration’s troop levels in Iraq, even as a growing number of critics, including Sen. John McCain, as early as 2005 said war losses demanded more troops and a new strategy.

“Senator McCain is a strong supporter that we need to succeed in Iraq, that we need to defeat the terrorists in Iraq, and so does the president of the United States,” Mr. Hadley said that year on CNN. “We have a strategy to do that that involves acting against the terrorists, but it also involves building the Iraqi security forces so they can be partner with us.”

In late 2006, retired generals and think-tank analysts eventually convinced Mr. Hadley and the president that they were wrong. A new strategy known as the troop surge began in early 2007.

Mr. Hadley broke out of his low-profile mode to appear on “Meet the Press” that month and declare, “It’s up to us and the Iraqis standing together to succeed. Because if we don´t, those who support us, those who support us in the war on terror will be discredited, the terrorists will be empowered, and our traditional allies are going to raise a question about whether we have staying power in the region to deal with things like Iran.”

On occasion, Mr. Hadley is called on to deliver policy speeches, such as the one he delivered in May to representatives of the Proliferation Security Initiatives, a five-year-old pet project of the president’s. Mr. Hadley conveyed Mr. Bush’s tough talk on terrorists.

“Today, we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction,” he said.