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Chertoff at the Ath

November 12, 2008

by The Fourm

When I asked Michael Chertoff what he plans to do after January 20th, 2009, when the new administration takes over, he mentioned that he would like to stay involved as a commentator and maybe "do some teaching", among other activities. So, it would follow, much of his speech sounded like that of an international relations professor and less like a partisan commentator or strategist. During dinner, Secretary Chertoff asked the students at his table about their political views, opinions on current events, and plans for the future, but did not share any 24 political thriller movie-type moments as I had privately hoped. He did mention his greatest regret pertaining to the Patriot Act, of which he is the co-author-- the name "Patriot Act" itself. He expressed disappointment that the name was misleading and that public misperceptions of what was actually in the piece of legislation arose because almost nobody actually read the contents of the bill. As an example, he cited the common belief that the Patriot Act is all about wiretapping and surveillance, when, he maintains, that is simply not true.

In his speech, Chertoff did not talk about modern legislation, the Patriot Act, or almost anything past the 1990's, even the policies and politics of George W. Bush or Barack Obama. Chertoff mostly spoke about the Cold War, Ronald Reagan, and ideas of foreign policy realism and idealism. I was not taking notes, so I'll post links to other students' blogs as they make their notes available this evening and over the next few days.

Update, 9:10 PM: Sahil Kapur '09 wrote his account of Chertoff's talk here. He writes:

"He urged a balanced philosophy between realism and idealism, positing that both are vital to global progress. In other words, all decisions must be based on hard realities as well as a vision for the future and a strategy by which to achieve it..."

Update, 9:30 PM: Luke Johnson '09, Athenaeum Fellow, wrote a post about Chertoff's mention of a "realist writer" here.  Here's a sample:

"During his speech, Secretary Chertoff criticized a “realist writer” who had “written an introduction to Rienhold Niebuhr,” for writing that “realism had won the Cold War.”Who was this mystery man?..."

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