With old friends like Bernie Kerik, said Joe Mathews in the Los Angeles Times, Rudy Giuliani may not need political enemies. Kerik, you’ll recall, is the onetime police detective whom then–New York Mayor Giuliani hired to be his driver, elevated to police commissioner, and eventually recommended to President Bush as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik withdrew from consideration for that critical federal position when it became clear he would face embarrassing questions about tax evasion, extramarital affairs, and connections to shady business deals and mob-linked companies. This week, Kerik was hit with a federal corruption indictment whose lurid details “would fit an episode of The Sopranos.” He stands accused of using his position as police commissioner to do favors for mob-tied firms, which returned that kindness by performing $250,000 worth of renovations to his Bronx apartment, and of lying to the IRS and White House officials about his shady finances. There’s no evidence Giuliani knew Kerik was such a bad seed, said the New York Post in an editorial, but how “America’s mayor” handles the downfall of his old friend “will go a long way toward deciding his success in the presidential run.”
The real problem for Giuliani, said Mary Jacoby in The Wall Street Journal, is that Kerik “isn’t the only Giuliani intimate facing questions about unethical or illegal actions.” Monsignor Alan Placa, a Catholic priest now employed by Giuliani’s security firm, has been accused of groping teenage boys and of using “hardball legal tactics” to shelter other abusive priests from exposure. This week, said Joan Walsh in Salon.com, the Kerik scandal got even juicier when his former mistress, publisher Judith Regan, filed a bombshell lawsuit. Regan claims in the suit that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.—owner of Fox News—fired and smeared her because she knew too much about Kerik, which “would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.” And there’s probably more dirt to come.
Does anyone really care? said Jim Geraghty in National Review Online. “The moral and legal failings of Bernie Kerik have been out there since 2005,” and seem not to have stopped Giuliani becoming the front-runner in the race for the GOP’s presidential nomination. Any political damage from the Kerik scandal has already been “‘priced in’ to Giuliani’s numbers.” Voters care about fighting terrorism, not about old scandals. Kerik certainly won’t be an issue should Giuliani be nominated and end up opposing Democrat Hillary Clinton, a woman not exactly well-placed to criticize anyone “for corruption, dirty money, and ties to shady characters.”
It’s not the corruption Kerik symbolizes that will cause Giuliani the most trouble, said Gail Collins in The New York Times. It’s the pathological loyalty. Rudy lifted Kerik out of obscurity, and kept promoting him because he always knew Kerik had his back. “The past seven years have given us some helpful hints on what we want to avoid in the next president,” and loyalty tops the list. When choosing a pet, loyalty is a great quality, but in choosing someone to, say, run a war or come to the aid of a city flattened by a killer hurricane, competence and honesty are a lot more useful.
Even now, Giuliani is still defending his old crony, said The New York Times. His first reaction to the long-awaited indictment was to say, with “remarkable” arrogance, that Kerik’s many mistakes were outweighed by his success in fighting crime. Do voters want to run the risk that Giuliani will make similar errors of judgment as president, “when the stakes for a disastrous appointment would be so much higher?”