New York City is a hall of funny mirrors, which is why even its smartest politicians don't know what normal looks like. Thus, it is entirely possible that former Mayor Rudolph...
New York City is a hall of funny mirrors, which is why even its smartest politicians don’t know what normal looks like. Thus, it is entirely possible that former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani didn’t notice anything strange about Bernard Kerik, who once served as his police commissioner.
Giuliani had urged President Bush to name Kerik as head of the Department of Homeland Security. It turns out that Kerik carried enough personal baggage to sink a cruise ship. The resulting fiasco now has people questioning Giuliani’s honesty, judgment and political future.
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Did “America’s mayor” know about Kerik’s business and personal life? Did he know about it but not mind? Whatever the answer, it does not reflect well on Giuliani.
The nanny’s immigration status might not have seemed a big deal to outsiders. After all, the administration has all but given up on enforcing employer sanctions. But in a world of functioning mirrors, appearances matter. The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to oversee immigration.
Talk about appearances: We learn Kerik was good buddies with the owner of a New Jersey construction company suspected of mob connections. No one has officially charged the friend, who employs Kerik’s brother, with anything. But the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement doesn’t want the company working at Atlantic City casinos. And New York City won’t let it operate a transfer station. The company’s officials “lack the character, honesty and integrity required,” according to city regulators.
Last but not least interesting is Kerik’s love life. The New York Daily News reports that Kerik ran not one but two extramarital affairs simultaneously. For this, he rented an apartment not far from Ground Zero. The mistresses didn’t know about each other until one found a love letter written by her chief rival who was not the wife in New Jersey.
Only next to Kerik would Giuliani seem a faithful husband. The mayor limited himself to one mistress at a time. But Kerik at least tried to keep it under wraps. Giuliani flaunted his affair. His humiliated wife had to get a court order to prevent the mistress from attending functions at the official residence, where she lived with their children.
The crazy mirror tells Giuliani that the world sees him as a moral giant. After all, he opposed publicly funded art that offended religious sensibilities.
A “Saturday Night Live” skit tried to straighten out the reflection. It pictured the mayor saying, “This trash is not the sort of thing that I want to look at when I go to the museum with my mistress.”
Somehow you don’t expect this show to end up in the White House. Does Giuliani seriously envision third wife Judi pouring tea in the Green Room?
This is not to take away from Giuliani’s enormous accomplishments as New York mayor. Toward the end, it is true, the weary citizens were ready to see his tail lights. But then 9/11 happened, and Giuliani’s heroic performance restored his greatness in the public eye.
Kerik, likewise, could have been a good homeland-security chief. His bizarre childhood gave him insights that might have helped plumb the twisted brains of terrorists. His break-heads approach to management would have come in handy at the department, which is a jumble of 22 agencies, each with a mind of its own.
But while a raffish touch can be charming, a walk on the wild side is quite something else. Bush had no choice but to take a pass on Bernie Kerik.
None of this will change Giuliani’s political future. Had Kerik been a model Scout, Giuliani would still be facing a most unpromising career on the national stage. Sure, the president wanted him glued to his side during the campaign. Giuliani’s job was to lend the aura of 9/11 valor. But if the former mayor read into that any kind of endorsement for a White House run, then he was suffering another judgment malfunction.
New York’s wavy mirrors are why no mayor, however capable, will command the Oval Office. Theodore Roosevelt ran for New York City mayor but had the good fortune to lose. Teddy, you will recall, was nobody’s idea of normal. Just imagine how crazy he might have become if he had thought he was.
Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop’s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org