A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Speaking of pathologies. . .

. . .the one that afflicts so many of my fellow conservative Republicans these days has manifested itself, yet again, in the reaction to Bernard Kerik's withdrawal of his acceptance of the President's nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security. It seems a lot of the GOP faithful are selectively indignant at the very idea that a nomination to a high-level cabinet position could be derailed by something as minor as the legal immigration status and Social Security tax payment on behalf of the nominee's domestic help.

But, it's not like we're breaking new ground here. The truth of the matter is that the GOP were quite happy to raise such issues in the process of confirming Bill Clinton's cabinet nominees. And, if such transgressions are enough to prohibit one from holding the Attorney General's position, it stands to reason that the department of Homeland Security would be at least as off-limits.

To be clear, I'd like to point out that I was very gratified at Kerik's selection right up to the point where he withdrew. And, even then, I was skeptical as to whether or not it was a good thing to allow something like a "Nannygate" problem to dictate who heads a department like Homeland Security. But, with some thought, and a little bit of reading at Lucianne.com, it strikes me that this is essentially an immigration matter, which is a crucial component of the entire concept of Homeland Security.

That's not to say that I'm unconflicted. I do feel some skepticism at the notion that Kerik's apparent failure to pay Social Security taxes on behalf of the hired help somehow reflects on his ability to make the nation safer from terrorists. However, as much as this may seem a side-issue, it isn't. The mere fact that this is just now coming to light is indicative of a lack of either thoroughness, or forthrightness.

That may seem unfair to those who were particularly happy about Mr. Kerik's nomination. But when you consider that Kerik came into prominence in New York politics, which reportedly requires a level of toughness and willingness to fight dirty if need be, you have to conclude that the issue would ultimately prove to be a very big problem for the administration. And given Mr. Kerik's apparent respect for the President, you have to conclude that he didn't withdraw his acceptance out of fear for his own reputation.

There has been some speculation as to whether or not we're hearing the whole story. Some are suggesting that there's much more to it than has been told so far. And that is where I think the issue becomes a matter of the proverbial "politics of personal destruction" -- not in the revelation itself. After all, it was Kerik himself who brought this issue to the public's attention, not some Democratic staffer on a headhunt.

But, if the media go after this with their usual bloodlust, and start digging into every unswept corner of Kerik's life only to produce evidence of questionable conduct -- rather than illegal conduct -- it becomes a matter of not only piling on, but a certain mean-spiritedness that Democrats are keen to attribute to Republicans.

So, unless there are issues in Kerik's past that suggest further contempt, or disregard for the law, there is no reason drag his political corpse down Pennsylvania Avenue. The man has obviously fulfilled his civic responsibilities to the satisfaction of the people of New York, and Rudy Giuliani obviously found him to be an effective police commissioner. What would be the point in cataloging his every personal and professional foible, now that he's given his opposition what they wanted all along -- his job and reputation?

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