David Petraeus, who resigned from his post as CIA director over an affair with his biographer last November, appears to be charting a new path for himself in the public sphere, beginning a speech Tuesday evening at the University of California, during which he apologized for the affair.
“Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago,” Petraeus said at an event honoring veterans and USC’s long-standing ROTC program.
“I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing,” Petraeus told the audience of about 600. “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.”
The event marked the former four-star general’s first public speech since his resignation, and his first address save for a behind-closed-doors testimony over the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya last September. He has only publicly acknowledged the affair one other time, in a letter to CIA staff on the day of his resignation, saying, “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.” Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is considered a crime.
With Tuesday night’s Los Angeles venue, Petraeus tested the waters of a future public life against a markedly different backdrop than the political Washington of his recent past. (The New York Times reported that the event was scheduled before Petraeus submitted his letter of resignation in November 2012.) The crowd welcomed him with a standing ovation.
“I know that I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and a number of others,” Petraeus said toward the end of the speech. “I can, however, try to move forward in a manner that is consistent with the values to which I subscribed before slipping my moorings, and as best possible to make amends to those I have hurt and let down, and that is what I will strive to do.”
Left in question is how the former ISAF Commander will fill his civilian days. Slate contributor and author Fred Kaplan told msnbc.com that the options include high-level posts in the corporate sector or with universities or speakers bureaus–“everything except politics.”
“I think he feels he can’t been seen, nor would he want to do something that is just about making money,” Kaplan said. “He very much wants to stay a player in the policy world, if not necessarily making policy, then taken seriously on it and commenting on it. He’ll probably do a mix of things.”
An editorial written by Petraeus and Sidney E. Goodfriend, the founder and chairman of American Corporate Partners, appeared in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, further signaling a focus on veteran’s employment issues in the retired General’s near future.
Petraeus, a 37-year Army veteran, was chosen to head the CIA in 2011. Prior to that, he served as commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan and oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq, and penned the Army’s counterinsurgency manual.
His affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public when the FBI began investigating harassing emails sent from Broadwell’s account to Petraeus’s friend Jill Kelly. He submitted his letter of resignation on Nov. 9, 2012.