CARI.Chertoff.gifWith the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Michael Chertoff is being eyed for the position. He would become the first Jewish U.S. Attorney General since Edward Levi from 1975-1977. Levi was a seriously distinguished jurist born in Chicago, Illinois, the son and grandson of rabbis. He received his A.B. Phi Beta Kappa from the undergraduate college of the University of Chicago in 1932, and later his J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School in 1935.

Michael Chertoff is also the son and grandson of Rabbis, and could become the first Jew appointed to this position in 30 years.

When Chertoff was nominated as Secretary of Homeland Defense worried members of the Jewish community thought that having a Jew in such a prominent position might be “bad for the Jews”. After all, if anything goes wrong, they can blame the Jews. Other more enlightened opinions pointed out that “they” already blame the Jews for everything.

The main question remains will Chertoff be good for America? Can he bring respectability and the aura of professionalism to a position thoroughly politicized and tarnished? Chertoff had a very successful run as a US Attorney, garnering praise from Dems and Republicans. However, Chertoff then became special counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee that spent millions and millions trying to bring down Clinton. Chertoff also co-authored the controversial Patriot Act. He led the charge against Arthur Anderson, the former accounting house, that went down with Enron.

However, my own memories of Chertoff go back two years, when he oversaw FEMA’s disastrous relief efforts in the wake of Hurrican Katrina. FEMA, which had been rolled into the Department of Homeland Security, failed. Failed big time not only in immediate response, but in every step afterwards. Billions wasted, trailers of food and water never reaching people. FEMA even prevented relief from reaching people in some cases.

In his defense, we can say that Chertoff inherited a bad egg in FEMA. The agency and its director Michael Brown were incapable of dealing with the scope of the tragedy, and unable to recognize that and act. However, Chertoff let Brown run the failed rescue and relief efforts for over a week, before recalling him to DC. Nearly 2000 people died in Hurricane Katrina.

Chertoff’s record of public service, and high level of personal integrity, point to him being an excellent candidate. Chertoff’s close affiliation with Bush, the Patriot Act, and FEMA, are warning signs that he may not be able to repair the cratering damage called Alberto Gonzalez.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • What? in the eleventh hour of his awful presidency this supposed “best friend the jews ever had” might finally appoint the first jew ever in his two terms to his cabinet? (unlike his predecessor who had many jews at his side throughout)…

    Chertoff…magdy elamir…barf

  • Still another “more enlightened opinion” is that Chertoff’s Jewish background has no interest for the US population which does not, in fact, “blame the Jews for everything.”

  • Thanks Rabbi Yo, I agree on most of your points. I also think he’ll be passed over, due to the extent of the ongoing failure on Katrina & more. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • Levi was appointed after a distinguished career at the University of Chicago, at the end the President of the University. He added substantial credibility to the Ford administration. And he remains the model of the sort of person that President Bush should appoint. Are there no former law school deans, now president of a major univeristy, substantially outside of politics available to serve his or her country and clean up the DoJ? We do not need another politician, from a line of Rabbis or not. I’m not certain that Sec. Chertoff was ever about Justice. We deserve an AG who is.

  • ???
    other presidents had Korbel and Mr. Ammanpour and nominated an intermarried justice. yeah that was good.

    The drawing of Chertoff looks like it came from DerSturmer. I didn’t realize his nose was so big. Thanks.

  • What hippie BS is this?

    Its not Jewlicious at all.


    Stick to what your strengths are.

    You write some amazing posts….. but geeeezzzzz.



    Comment #1 is an idiot!!!!!!

    Lewis “Scooter” Libby – former Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney
    Paul Wolfowitz – former Deputy Secretary of Defense
    Douglas Jay Feith – Former Under Secretary for Policy, Department of Defense
    Dov S. Zakheim – Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Pentagon
    Ari Fleischer – President Bush’s former press secretary.
    Kenneth Adelman – member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board
    Robert Satloff – U.S. National Security Council Advisor
    Elliott Abrams – Deputy National Security Council Advisor
    Marc Grossman – Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    Joshua Bolton – Director of Office of Management and Budget

  • You can forget Chertoff, I think even Bush thinks he’s damaged goods. On the other hand, I have heard rumblings about Lieberman on some radio shows, such as the Thom Hartmann Program. I see this as the more dangerous one, as there is no way the Senate would not vote to confirm one of its own. I mean, if Lieberman actually grew a set of “beitzim”, I wouldn’t have a problem, but I just see him as a Bush “yes-man”.

  • Why would any self-respecting Jew want to be aligned with what history will show to be the second most reviled Presidency behind Nixon? Other than Lieberman, of course.

    To assess this administration based on how many Jews hold positions in it is like being into Maroon 5 because it’s lead guy’s Jewish.

    As far as Chertoff’s religion in the eyes of the American people I’ll agree with Tom’s point. The last time I remember a Jewish cabinet member’s religion being an issue was Kissinger and the issue wasn’t with the American people but rather his anti-semitic boss.