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Petraeus apologizes for affair, hints at return to public life

March 27, 2013|By Alexandra Zavis
  • Retired Gen. David H. Petraeus delivered the keynote speech at USC's dinner honoring veterans and ROTC students at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
Retired Gen. David H. Petraeus delivered the keynote speech at USC's… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

After Gen. David H. Petraeus apologized in Los Angeles for engaging in an extramarital affair, he signaled he is ready to move beyond the scandal and perhaps back into the public eye.

Before about 600 guests in a hotel ballroom in downtown L.A. on Tuesday, a confident but contrite Petraeus acknowledged he is "regarded in a different light now" than he was a year ago.

He has kept a low profile since admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in November. The speech, at a USC dinner honoring veterans and ROTC students, is the first step in what appears to be a carefully choreographed comeback attempt. The affair brought his illustrious career to an abrupt end.

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"I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing," he said. "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."

At the same time, Petraeus made it clear that he would like to move on: "One learns after all that life doesn't stop with such a mistake; it can and must go on."

Petraeus, 60, offered few specifics about his plans, saying only that he has agreed to support several nonprofit groups that assist veterans. Acquaintances have said that he has also received offers to teach at universities, give speeches and sit on the boards of major corporations.

"I could see him being on the talking circuit," said a friend who asked not to be identified. "I can see him doing consultancy, teaching.… I could see him as a future national security advisor, but that depends on who is in charge."

Until Tuesday, he had generally avoided public appearances, retreating to his suburban home in Arlington, Va. Friends and former aides said Petraeus was focusing on his family.

Petraeus' rehabilitation is being managed by a high-powered Washington lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, whose clients have included former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Barnett said Petraeus was declining all interview requests.

Tuesday's speech, which was arranged months before he resigned, provided Petraeus with an opportunity to engage with a friendly audience on issues that matter to him, notably the needs of service members and their families.

USC enrolls about 450 veterans per semester and has been a pioneer in training social workers and developing technology to address their needs.

Petraeus is credited with drafting the military's counterinsurgency doctrine. As commander of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, he helped turn around the war. He also led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring from the Army in 2011 to become intelligence chief.

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alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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