The new head of the Department of Homeland Security definitely sounds like an interesting fellow. As a toddler, Bernard Kerik was abandoned by his single-parent mother. He was a high-school drop-out (who has "since earned a GED and a mail-order bachelor's degree from Empire State College"), a military policeman, a security expert for the Saudi royal family, an undercover cop in narcotics, NYC corrections commissioner, and "special policy adviser to the Iraqi interim government." I'd love to chat with him over coffee. I'll bet he has some really fascinating stories.
So what are his qualifications to serve as secretary of Homeland Security? What are his policies? Will he walk in the totalitarian footsteps of his predecessor, Ridge? Will God work a miracle and give us a Homeland Security secretary who respects the Constitution?
I doubt that last one. According to the Washington Post, Kerik's record "combating terrorism and working on the national stage is...spotty."
When Kerik was "appointed by President Bush to train a new Iraqi police force...[he] came under criticism for inadequate screening of recruits as U.S. authorities rushed to deploy the force. It has been plagued by desertions and by allegations that insurgents have infiltrated the ranks." He's also been accused of "failures of leadership during the terrorist attacks" by John Lehman, a former Navy Secretary and Republican member of the Sept. 11th commission. Lehman said that Kerik's "command and control" of his department was "not worthy of the boy scouts."
Corruption and rumors of corruption have plagued Kerik's career. While serving as NYC corrections commissioner, "Kerik several times promoted Anthony Serra, finally to bureau chief. But this summer -- well after Kerik left the department -- the Bronx district attorney filed a 146-count indictment against Serra, charging that he had over several years used corrections officers to work on his home and in Republican Party campaigns." However, "there was no indication that Kerik knew of the alleged crimes."
Again, "as corrections commissioner, Kerik also ran the New York City Correction Foundation... The foundation was supposed to fund programs that strengthen the department. But it had few fiscal controls, and Kerik appointed a deputy commissioner who later pleaded guilty to defrauding it of $142,000. The former aide is serving a federal prison term."
While one might argue that none of the above is worrisome because Kerik wasn't directly responsible for anything illegal, such an argument would unfortunately not apply with the following: "The city's Conflicts of Interest Board fined him $2,500 for sending two police officers to Ohio to help research his best-selling 2001 memoir, 'The Lost Son.' And when his publisher and friend Judith Regan reported her cell phone stolen after a visit to a Fox Television studio, detectives showed up at the homes of Fox employees who had been on the set at the time."
Kerik's hero is presumably the man who he reportedly keeps a portrait of in his office, Lt. Col. Oliver North (that is, a corrupt participant in the Iran-Contra Affair and defender of the abusive Abu Ghraib guards). As a display of Kerik's character, consider that he fathered a child out of wedlock while serving in Korea, and that NYC City Council Member Bill Perkins says his "most consistent trait is blind loyalty to his boss."
But Kerik was appointed by Bush, so he must be a good guy, and any mention of his faults can only be a front for a "journalistic jihad against the administration." Probably the only thing that will give Republicans pause about Kerik is that both of New York's Democratic senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, vouch for him.
December 4, 2004
Pieter Friedrich lives in a small town in the California Sierra Foothills. He is an amateur political analyst, a writer, a classical liberal, a juris naturalist, a paleo-conservative, a strict constitutionalist, and, foremost, a Christian. He may be reached for comment here.