Giuliani Hurt by Kerik Scandal
Illicit affairs, mob ties, a secret love nest. The hijinks of Bernard Kerik, disgraced just as he aspired to join President Bush’s Cabinet, have also bruised the reputation of former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, seen by many as a White House contender in 2008.
The abrupt withdrawal of Kerik, New York’s former police commissioner, from consideration as the next U.S. Homeland Security chief has opened a floodgate of revelations and titillating headlines this week about Kerik’s life.
Comedians are having fun. Listing the “Top Ten” ways Saddam Hussein celebrated the anniversary of his capture, television host David Letterman said Hussein “counted his blessings that he ain’t Bernard Kerik.”
Observers say the fallout lands squarely on Giuliani, who has a successful consulting business with Kerik and vouched for his credentials as homeland security czar. Many think Giuliani is weighing a White House run. That, say political analysts, will require winning over Republicans who dislike his more liberal positions on social issues.
“What Giuliani did in compromising the president is unforgivable. It’s shameful,” said former Mayor Ed Koch. “The president can say he’s not mad at Giuliani, but he has to be seething that Giuliani could want to palm this guy off on him this way,” Koch told Reuters. The fiasco makes Giuliani vulnerable, said Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkopf. As mayor, Giuliani was blasted by critics who said he bullied his political enemies. “His enemies have been waiting for an opportunity. This provides the opportunity for them,” said Sheinkopf. “People who may have been afraid to tangle with him because of his bright national star now can go after him.”
Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris, who left his White House job over an affair with a prostitute, said the questions around Kerik could hurt Giuliani, who built a reputation as a squeaky clean prosecutor and later politician. But he said the story “doesn’t have legs.” Nevertheless, said political pollster Lee Miringoff: “It’s there. It’ll be off page one but it’ll be part of who he is. “There’s no doubt there’s egg on Giuliani’s face from this,” Miringoff said. “This is not part of his plan to endear himself to the conservative elements of the Republican Party.”
I hate to agree with Dick Morris, but I’m pretty sure he’s right. It’s true that Kerik was Guiliani’s guy. But the fault lies, first, with Kerik, who apparently lied to the White House about the nanny issue and some others. Mostly, though, it falls on the White House staff, who failed to vet Kerik thoroughly for an incredibly high profile and sensitive position.