Chertoff Likes Obama On Security

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in an interview with National Journal, says he sees "a lot of continuity" with the previous administration in President Obama's handling of national security issues. Which stands in pretty stark contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney's public criticisms of the new administration.

When asked if he agrees with Cheney's claim that Obama has made the country less safe, Chertoff said:

I actually think the best take on this is that of President Bush, who has said he's not going to get in the position of sitting on the shoulder of his successor and starting to criticize. I think that's a very good position.

Speaking more generally, I'm pleased with the fact that President Obama's administration is going forward in a very measured way in looking at all the tools that we've used in dealing with terrorism. The new president has talked about closing Gitmo, but he hasn't been in a rush to do it.... They are not just throwing over everything that went before. They are protecting secrets that need to be protected. They are not relinquishing the authorities that are very important.

Chertoff has never been a partisan figure, and it's not surprising to find him cleanly above the political fray of torture, Guantanamo, and the clashing philosophies of Cheney and Obama. But his observation does articulate a political problem for the new commander in chief: Obama is caught between the Cheneys and the ACLUs of the world, whose firmly held beliefs in security-at-all-costs and the utmost priorities of rights & liberty are not satisfied by this measured approach, even as the thoughtful former secretary appreciates it.