WASHINGTON (Talon News) — President Bush nominated Michael Chertoff, a federal appeals court judge, to be the next secretary of homeland security on Tuesday. Chertoff’s nomination took Washington by surprise since his name never surfaced among those being considered to take over for outgoing DHS head Tom Ridge.
The announcement was greeted with bipartisan approval due to Chertoff’s long record of stellar public service. Before being named to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Chertoff had been an assistant U.S. attorney general, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a federal prosecutor in New York City, and a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.
On September 11, 2001, Chertoff was managing the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and helped trace the terrorist attacks to the al Qaeda network. That role placed him at the center of many vital homeland security improvements, especially increased information sharing within the FBI and with state and local officials.
President Bush’s remarks during the Roosevelt Room announcement demonstrated that the White House is still stinging over the failed nomination of former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to the same position. Bush pointed out that the Senate had confirmed Chertoff three times already.
Later, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that the president meant that Chertoff would be a popular choice.
McClellan said that the nominee is someone who “enjoys wide respect from Democrats and Republicans alike, particularly on the Hill.”
“[Judge Chertoff] is someone who has a lot of experience and brings a lot of talent to this position,” McClellan said. “And that’s why the president talked about it. … We’re pleased that he agreed to accept this nomination.”
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine praised Chertoff, calling him “one of the most able people and public servants he has ever known.” He was the only U.S. attorney to survive the purge of the lawyers serving under President George H.W. Bush that took place when President Bill Clinton took office. Then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ) asked that Chertoff be retained.
New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) selected Chertoff to be the Senate Republicans’ chief counsel for the Whitewater investigation. Chertoff also investigated the suspicious death of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, a Clinton aide and former law partner of Hillary Clinton, as well as other allegations against the Clintons. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) cast a vote against Chertoff’s nomination to the 3rd Circuit Court in 2003, but he was confirmed by a vote of 88-1.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who worked with Chertoff at the Justice Department also had strong words of support.
“Having already assumed a great deal of responsibility in the investigations of al Qaeda, Michael Chertoff has made clear his commitment to keeping America safe,” Giuliani said. “From this base of experience, he’ll be a superb Department of Homeland Security secretary and continue the development of this important department.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) applauded Chertoff’s selection.
Executive Director Matthew Brooks said, “Michael Chertoff has the talent and experience to take on this vital role in protecting the security of our country and its citizens.”
He added, “Under President Bush’s leadership, we have become a much stronger, more secure nation since 9/11. But the work of reforming old government systems and developing new ways to meet the challenges of the war on terrorism goes on. Michael Chertoff is an excellent choice to move those efforts forward effectively.”