Giuliani Hurt by Kerik Scandal

Giuliani Hurt by Scandal Around Former Top NY Cop (Reuters)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JakeV says:

    Could we spare a teeny, weeny bit of fault for the man who actually made the decision to pick Kerik?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Presidents don’t vet their nominees any more than any other CEO; likely less. The extent of Bush’s involvement was looking over the folder and having a meet-and-greet with the guy.

    I wasn’t blogging then, but I never blamed Bill Clinton for failed nominees like Zoe Baird or that fruitcake Lani Guinier. These things are just too far below the span of control of a chief executive, let alone a wartime president.

  3. ken says:

    So no, JakeV, Bush is entirely, completely, absolutely, perfectly blameless. Beloved Leader is not responsible for anything at all.

    It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly rational people can support Bush and make excuses for him on everything he does.

  4. Figures says:

    It doesn’t seem quite fair that everyone has to be vetted by the President himself. Doesn’t he ha have staff that does that sort of thing? Maybe we should blame Laura Bush for the whole mess, she’s married to the President afterall?

    Geez, I think Kerik is the most culpable, and then anyone who he directly reported to about his personal life along the way.

    I certainly cannot point fingers anywhere else when I like most Americans don’t know who is the one that does the vetting of people before they are nominated.

  5. kappiy says:

    The pick of Kerick was idiotic irregardless of the fact that he is a corrupt, adulturous, facilitator of illegal activity.

    There were many of us who thought that his record of public service was woefully inadequate for the job. He had no experience managing a large-scale diverse bureaucracy. The experience he did have (Chief of Police, trainer of the Iraqi police force, and head of NY corrections) was either undistinguished or disastorous (e.g. Iraq where he left his 6 month commitment after the 8th week).

    Just like Condi Rice & Alberto Gonzalez, Kerick was simply offered the position due to his fealty to the Bush machine. His defenders said that his heroic “personal story” was enough to give him the job.

    Frankly, this is redolent of all of that touchy-feely liberal stuff that debases merit.

    It’s good that scandal hurt Kerick before his obvious incompetence hurt thousands more.

    Bush, of course, is the one who should take the blame. His major character flaw is one that has been a hallmark of his disaster of a presidency. It amounts to this: an inherent inability to engage in analytical thinking. Bush privileges “story”, “loyalty”, “personal relationships” above things that matter–comptetence, merit, credibility.

    THis is exactly the reason why he has had such a hard time to get a replacement for Snow in Treasury–no one with any independence or credibility will take the job.

  6. JakeV says:

    The vetting is for the staff, sure. But the President makes the judgment about who to nominate. What made him like Kerik? What made him think Kerik would be a good candidate for the job? It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kerik is not an otherwise strong nominee with one unfortunate issue in his past, but instead a moral and ethical disaster area.

    From Richard Cohen’s column today:

    “Bernie,” Bush called out at a White House ceremony last year.
    Kerik, who was walking away, stopped. “Yes, sir,” he said.
    “You’re a good man,” the president said.

    Poor judgment.

    By the way, I’m really starting to doubt that the alleged “nanny problem” was the only thing that thwarted Kerik’s nomination.

  7. Attila Girl says:

    I believe that would be “whom.” Whom to nominate.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Another day at the Bush White House, where there is no accountability for anything, ever, under any circumstance.

  9. LJD says:

    …and total double standards for everything liberal. They can do no wrong…
    (Remember- Oh, who cares about a little adultery in the White House “He’s a GOOD MAN!”)

  10. > that he is a corrupt, adulturous,
    > facilitator of illegal activity.

    How did this discussion turn to Clinton?

  11. anjin-san says:


    Bet you are really glad that peace & prosperity crap we had under Clinton is history!