He's Out! Bernie Kerik's Plea Bargain
Like one of those punk drug dealers Bernie "the Bully" Kerik used to manhandle when he was a tough-talking drug cop with a badge and a gun, Kerik took a plea bargain because he didn't have the guts to put his fate in the hands of the jury. The jury, in his case, was the United States Senate, and--rather than face the discordant music of his extraordinarily checkered past--Bernie the Bully copped a plea and withdrew his name from consideration Friday night.
If the first AP dispatch announcing Kerik's withdrawal is to be believed, it said with a straight face that the news "caught the White House off guard." But for days, Kerik had been pummeled by the national press corps as it caught on to what smart New Yorkers had always known: Kerik is a self-serving little hustler who, as police commissioner, perverted his public office to advance his own fortunes and those of his cronies.
The list of Kerik's faults being paraded in the press during the course of the week included: his abandonment of his girlfriend and their lovechild in North Korea (the "family values" right didn't care for that one); his use of Department of Corrections cops to campaign for a Republican mayoral candidate; his bankruptcy; his awarding an honorary police commissionership to his publisher; his misuse of over a million bucks allocated to buy cigarettes for inmates of the city's jails; his $6.2 million windfall doing an insider trade in stock from Taser International, which did huge business with the Dept. of Homeland Security Bernie was supposed to head; or--the latest development--the fact that his housekeeping nanny had an immigration problem (and Bernie would have been in charge of the INS in his new job), and that he hadn't paid taxes or withholding on the (undoubtedly underpaid) immigrant nanny's wages (in other words, Bernie the Cheapskate was paying her off the books--making him a serial IRS flouter, just as he was in the $1 million cigarette scam involving a foundation under his tutelage). And there was a lot more.
Most bullies are punks: they can dish it out, but they can't take it. Bernie the Bully was no different. He went to Iraq for a six-month tour of duty training a rag-tag brigade of Keystone Kops (who have the unfortunate habit of getting themselves blown up), and left ignominiously after just three months with his tail between his legs, fleeing--no doubt--the death threats that were killing people even in the occupiers' heavily fortified "Green Zone," and shrugging off a tough job he wasn't up to doing. He signed on to head up the Saudi Royal family's security, and this princelings' bodyguard fled that job when it was revealed he'd been playing sex cop, and investigating the bed movements of the American personnel staffing a Saudi hospital on behalf of the hospital's randy Saudi administrator with a thing for nurses. And now he's bailed out on the Homeland Security job because he was scared stiff that his reputation would have been left in tatters by a Senate confirmation hearing. So much for Bernie the Bully's supposed "toughness."
This was a huge embarrassment for Kerik's business partner, Rudy Giuliani, who lobbied unrelentingly for the appointment of Kerik--his former bodyguard--to the DHS post, calling Dubya twice to press for Kerik. Some creative paranoids already see in Kerik's withdrawal Karl Rove's revenge on Giuliani, who'd supported John McCain back in 2000.
But it was an even bigger embarrassment for this White House. The arrogant hubris of the Bushies, flushed with their victory, in putting the president before the TV cameras to announce the Kerik appointment without even waiting for his FBI background check to be completed (as the AP noted) bespeaks an incompetence on the part of Bush's team that is of the same stripe as the arrogance that invaded Iraq without the necessary troops or equipment on hand (in other words, with "the army we have," as Rummy put it when he crammed his own foot down his own throat in response to a soldier's question the other day in Iraq). If the Bushies and their footpads couldn't even turn up Bernie's funny-money dealings (most of which were available through a simple Nexis search) or a black market nanny, is it any wonder they can't find Osama?
The notion that Bernie the Bully could have ever competently managed the 180,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, and its 22 separate federal agencies, was always laughable, as I wrote in an earlier piece proclaiming the appointment a disaster. Yesterday Raw Story uncovered a 2003 lawsuit which Kerik settled out of court for $325,000 after a deputy warden accused Kerik of "harassing" him for supporting the Democratic mayoral candidate, Mark Green. The suit alleged Kerik "instituted a practice of threats and retaliation if they were deemed 'disloyal' to the Commissioner." Not exactly the way to build rank-and-file morale in the bureaucracy, is it?
It may turn out in the coming days that Kerik didn't jump, he was pushed. But here's the bottom line: Little Bernie, another short guy with a Napoleonic inferiority complex, could slap others around when he had a badge, a gun, and the presumption of guilt for the dope-dealing scumbags on whose heads he made his spurs. But you can't slap the U.S. Senate around the way you can a crackhead--and, when it became clear, at the week's end, that he'd be left stammering away under the klieg lights as he tried to answer pointed questions about his odorous past, Bernie preferred to take the money from his stock deal and run. No doubt he'll find lucrative employment with overpaid but paranoid corporate execs who are afraid that some kidnapper with a towel around his head will put the snatch on them or their loved ones. Or maybe Rudy will fix him up with another insider stock tip.
But at least the American people, and in particular our much-maligned immigrant population, won't have to endure Bernie the Bully's gutless persecutions as head of the DHS....
Hah! Here's a late-breaking post from Newsweek by Mark Hosenball, a veteran investigative reporter who's one of the better diggers in the biz:
"NEWSWEEK has discovered that a New Jersey judge in 1998 had issued an arrest warrant [for Kerik] as part of a convoluted series of lawsuits relating to unpaid bills on his condo. The magazine faxed documents, including the arrest warrant, over to the White House around 6:00 p.m. Friday, asking for comment. Neither Kerik nor the White House had any immediate response. At 8:30 p.m., Kerik had submitted his letter to the president."
Plea bargain turns out to be le mot juste after all.
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article first appeared.
Other Articles by Doug Ireland
Halliburton's Nigerian Bribery -- The