December 14, 2004
Free FallObviously, Bernard Kerik announced his withdrawal from nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security late Friday night in the hopes that it will fly under the radar. Unfortunately, the media isn't biting.
He cited hiring an undocumented nanny and not paying her taxes as the official reason for the withdrawal, but revelations about him make that excuse look like a smokescreen. Josh Marshall outlines the sordid details. Among them:
The White House seemed taken aback by Kerik's withdrawal, insisting it didn't know of problems with Kerik's nomination. Later on, Scott McClellan sounded like the White House knew everything, except for the nanny situation and the warrant of arrest which it blamed on Kerik's nondisclosure.
It's an embarrassment for the White House either way. If it insists it didn't know, Kerik becomes proof of the sloppy way it fills a post that's important to national security. The nanny issue is one thing, but if Newsweek discovered the arrest warrant with just a few days' research, how come the White House remained in the dark even though Special Counsel Alberto Gonzales himself conducted the vetting process?
Kerik's possible involvement in unethical activities is not a big secret; the New York press knows all about it. If the White House did know and chose to ignore them, that casts a doubt on George W. Bush's judgment in choosing an agency head that's vital in his "war on terror".
It's also an embarrassment for Kerik's padrino, Rudolph Giuliani, who was instrumental in Kerik's rise and eventual nomination to the Homeland Security post. How can Giuliani not know about the questions swirling around Kerik, his Police Commissioner when he was mayor of New York?
The White House might be wondering the same thing, and explains the strain in its relationship with Giuliani. In spite of it all, Kerik will return to his old job at Giuliani's firm.
Now the White House is scrambling to fill the post. One rumored candidate for the job: Democratic Senator Joseph Liebermann.
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