Video: Petraeus apologizes in first public appearance

posted at 9:21 am on March 27, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

After more than six months of seclusion, mainly with his family, former CIA Director and master military strategist David Petraeus has begun a comeback.  He chose a friendly venue for his first public appearance — the annual ROTC dinner at USC, an event at which he’d agreed to speak before the scandal broke.  He offered an expansive apology for his actions, if not detailed, before shifting to the main topic of the evening:

David Petraeus apologized Tuesday for the extramarital affair that led to his resignation as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency last November in his first public speech since then.

Petraeus was invited a year ago — before the scandal broke — to be the keynote speaker before 600 guests at the University of Southern California annual ROTC dinner.

The retired four-star general has remained out of the public eye since the revelations of the affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, but decided to keep this appointment.

“It truly is a privilege to be here with you this evening — all the more so given my personal journey over the past five months,” he said. “I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago … I’m also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing,” he said Tuesday night.

“So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret and apologize for the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters,” he added.

With this appearance, Petraeus hopes to clear some of the clouds away from his reputation and begin a new career — somewhere. Petraeus has been clearing the path for this effort over the past few weeks:

In recent months, however, Mr. Petraeus has increasingly appeared in public for lunches and dinners with former colleagues, foreign officials, members of Congress and policy experts. He met not long ago in New York with Fouad Ajami, the Middle East scholar, and recently attended a small off-the-record seminar on Iran at a Washington research institution.

Acquaintances of Mr. Petraeus say he supported Mr. Obama’s decision to nominate John O. Brennan as his successor at the C.I.A., a view he communicated privately to two Republicans, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Petraeus has received offers from the financial community and has taken trips to New York to explore what one of his associates called “long-term opportunities.” He has been asked to serve as a consultant to major companies, been offered the opportunity to give paid speeches and is exploring positions in academia. Mr. Petraeus, 60, is also keeping up his physical fitness regimen, alternating between daily seven-mile runs and 25-mile bike rides.

His post-government life is being managed by Robert B. Barnett, a lawyer who handles book deals for the Washington elite and who counts the last three American presidents as clients.

I’d guess that Petraeus may have damaged his value in politics somewhat, but I was never convinced that he wanted to pursue public office anyway.  Petraeus’ scandal was more personal than professional, and his value in the private sector or at think tanks should still be high.  Besides, Americans tend to be a forgiving people — one of our best qualities — and a public act of contrition and responsibility goes a long way towards securing that forgiveness.


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Bill Clinton has recovered to a point that, if he were still eligible, he could win campaigns easily. Petraeus should be okay in the future.

eski502 on March 27, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Okay, the public apology has been made and dutifully reported by the media. Now, never bring it up again. This was a personal crisis and lack of integrity, not a professional one. Stop talking about your personal life now.

Happy Nomad on March 27, 2013 at 9:32 AM

At least he had the seeds to apologize whether he really needed to or not.

Now when do Killary and Dog Eater apologize for the 4 dead Americans in Benghazi, or the 2 dead Americans on our southern border.

Bishop on March 27, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Now when do Killary and Dog Eater apologize for the 4 dead Americans in Benghazi, or the 2 dead Americans on our southern border.

Bishop on March 27, 2013 at 9:33 AM

When snow shovels are required in hell.

Happy Nomad on March 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM

he communicated privately to two Republicans, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as to Senator Dianne Feinstein

Two Rinos and a Dino. Not exactly a resume enhancement.

fogw on March 27, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Besides, Americans tend to be a forgiving people — one of our best qualities — and a public act of contrition and responsibility goes a long way towards securing that forgiveness.

it does, and it should.

It should be refreshing when a leader, or anyone, accepts responsibility for their actions. I wish we could see more of that nowadays….alas….*sigh*

ted c on March 27, 2013 at 9:49 AM

A ‘MAN’ apologizes when he has done wrong. Especially when his actions damage his family.

I see this as a first step for General Petraeus – and I for one – praise him for standing up like a man – and owning it.

jake-the-goose on March 27, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Forgiveness is up to his wife and kids. America loves a second act. But I wonder: Since his entire sparkling resume is “Army”, what does he see as his goal now?

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on March 27, 2013 at 9:56 AM

So after gay marriage is awesome and the LAW will we have these stories of famous men who cheat on their “husbands” and come out with some teary apology?

happytobehere on March 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Can we still say “wife” or is that too heteronormative and bigoted?

happytobehere on March 27, 2013 at 9:58 AM

The man’s a pig.

bluegill on March 27, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Another hollow man seeks to muffle the echo of his hollowness.

rrpjr on March 27, 2013 at 10:01 AM

But at least he apologized.

bluegill on March 27, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Petraeus’ scandal was more personal than professional, and his value in the private sector or at think tanks should still be high. Besides, Americans tend to be a forgiving people — one of our best qualities — and a public act of contrition and responsibility goes a long way towards securing that forgiveness.

True, and I appreciate your reminder, Ed. Still, it was professional, wasn’t it? Didn’t this start — the affair and the toting of her around on the military dime — while he was an active duty general?

I accept his apology, and am willing to consider forgiving him when I know what his restitution was or will be. And I don’t consider getting back into public life, or least of all, public service, because his knowledge and experience is highly valuable, being acts of restitution.

And then there is Benghazi and his involvement in that. I have my suspicions about the coincidental nature of the affair becoming public at the time Benghazi was in full cover-up mode, and I don’t think Patraeus was exactly up front on what he knows.

Dusty on March 27, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Guy has no poliical career.

Not because of the affair, but because he’s been down with too many things during Barry’s time.

How easy would it be for Rand to hang the “General Drone” tag on Petraeus, and how hard would it be for him to try and avoid the explanation?

budfox on March 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM

I hate these weird public apologies that political/government types always do. Petreaus doesn’t owe anyone outside his family an apology, the public nature of these things always gives it a weird insincerity to me

snoopicus on March 27, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Also ed its not really just personal, this woman was given extra access to further her career, and his reputation

snoopicus on March 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Move to SC. I hear they’re up for cheaters.

Kissmygrits on March 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Another hollow man seeks to muffle the echo of his hollowness.

rrpjr on March 27, 2013 at 10:01 AM

That’s the guy who won the war in Iraq buddy.

What’s YOUR claim to fame?

LFMAO!!

HondaV65 on March 27, 2013 at 10:46 AM

How any of those Cadets would have been disenrolled, ordered into enlisted service or discharged for similarly violating code of conduct?

bloviator on March 27, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Hillary/Petraeus — 2016

(both on the D ticket)

Schadenfreude on March 27, 2013 at 11:32 AM

“Petreaus doesn’t owe anyone outside his family an apology …”

[snoopicus on March 27, 2013 at 10:35 AM]

There’s a lot of reason for disagreement with that. For one, your next comment right after saying he doesn’t owe one. Two, violation of the code of military conduct.

Three, he’s a public official and his affair upset the the public weal, And there’s a goodly number of points on that score, all surrounding the fact that it took up space it wouldn’t have, if he hadn’t engaged in it. For example, it distracted from serious issues surrounding the Benghazi affair, and for another, all the time and money wasted having to address his replacement at the CIA.

There’s more but I think those three are sufficient to put it in the public apology column. The bottom line, though, is if someone doesn’t want the carry the burden of having to make public apologies, don’t become a public official.

Dusty on March 27, 2013 at 11:35 AM

How any of those Cadets would have been disenrolled, ordered into enlisted service or discharged for similarly violating code of conduct?

bloviator on March 27, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Exemption from the rules that apply to lesser folk is a hallmark of high rank.
Cf. Clinton v. Flinn. (aka Flynn)
(PS the Wiki article does not mention the blatant hypocrisy in Democrats’ views of the two situations, but that put another couple of cars on the train pulling me away from the Left.)

(PPS Here’s a good article on the current UCMJ position on adultery.)

AesopFan on March 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM

HondaV65 on March 27, 2013 at 10:46 AM

A dubious assertion aligned with an unrelated conclusion. Even if he did “[win] the war in Iraq”, this would have nothing to do with whether he was or wasn’t a hollow man. Which he is.

rrpjr on March 27, 2013 at 11:38 AM

He will make a fine professor of military history at some Ivy league Muslim college somewhere.

BL@KBIRD on March 27, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Petraeus and Menendez are gay now.

Schadenfreude on March 27, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Personally, I could care less about the man’s problems with his mistress, his wife, etc.

I DO care very much about Bengahzi. If you want to call this man a scumbag, make sure it for the right reasons. To say little when he knows a lot is a coverup for Obama and a betrayal of his country.

Amjean on March 27, 2013 at 2:20 PM

Who, apart from his wife, was he apologizing to? How does he owe the public an apology?

MadisonConservative on March 27, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Who, apart from his wife, was he apologizing to? How does he owe the public an apology?

MadisonConservative on March 27, 2013 at 2:26 PM

If you plan to “serve” the public in future, you should apologize, accept and proclaim forgiveness for yourself and proceed as normal in a society without moral strength.

BL@KBIRD on March 27, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Who, apart from his wife, was he apologizing to? How does he owe the public an apology?

MadisonConservative on March 27, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Almost always agree with you MadCon, but not in this case. He swore to uphold a moral code and didn’t, thus betraying our trust in him and his “service.” You may believe that he didn’t leak access or info to his mistress, but no one knows for sure – and that’s a big problem. He may have been lucky and Broadwell wasn’t a threat to the USA, but he could have just as easily been unlucky thereby compromising his position in our armed forces.

As has already been pointed out, he was in on Benghazi and having something secret that you don’t want known is a big problem in that case; especially if a DB like Obama knows about it.

On the other side – though some of you guys would call this personal, I would disagree. If a guy is lying to his wife and those that trust him most, it’s pretty easy to lie to everyone else about other things. See “Slick Willy.”

Free Indeed on March 28, 2013 at 10:02 AM