A recent TV commercial shows a father sitting on the floor of his living room surrounded by the debris of what looks like a food fight involving bright orange “Cheetos” type snacks. Dad talks about the refreshing honesty of his insurance company, then questions one of his own kids as the child runs past. “Do you know anything about this?” he asks, gesturing to the mess. The kid’s face and clothing are covered with orange powder from the snacks. “No,” the child replies, and runs off to join the other kids.
Last week Rudolph Giuliani faced the cameras to explain his support and advancement of one of his former top aides, Bernard Kerik. Kerik had been a driver for Giuliani who was elevated to corrections commissioner and then police commissioner… by Giuliani. Kerik now faces 14 charges in a corruption indictment that includes criminal conspiracy, tax evasion, and making false statements to White House officials considering him for a Homeland Security post to which he was recommended… by Giuliani.
Giuliani, like the child covered with orange powder, basically looked into the cameras and said, “No.”
What he actually said was crap like this: “I think that voters should look at it, and what they should say is, in that particular case, I pointed out that I made a mistake. I made a mistake of not clearing him effectively enough. I take responsibility for that.”
In his autobiography (just in time for Christmas!), Kerik says that Giuliani “made” him. Giulliani is also godfather to Kerik’s daughter. And speaking of godfathers, Giuliani concedes that he was briefed that Kerik had ties to a New Jersey waste disposal company (Could everyone please be more obvious here?) that is at the heart of the federal indictments involving Kerik. Specifically, Giuliani doesn’t dispute that he was briefed, but insists he doesn’t remember.
Through the crust of orange Cheetos dust on his lips, Giuliani insists that the public instead focus on the crime-fighting record that he and Kerik compiled.
What is this phenomenon of attempting to isolate real-world, practical, and applicable resume experience as a singular event of bad judgment? Giuliani’s tie to Kerik is a perfect example of the use of the word “history” to describe a long-term relationship. Put another way, would Giuliani prefer that voters only focus on his one day at Ground Zero rather than his 14-year relationship and forward promotion of a man now looking at a maximum sentence of 142 years in prison?
Yes, that’s it exactly. Giuliani wants voters to give him a “do over” on a 14-year-long series of events that demonstrates with crystal clarity how Giuliani’s decision-making while in office as mayor of the world’s largest city is suspect, or at least (at our most forgiving) weak. Candidate for president Rudolph Giuliani does not want to run on his record. He wants to run on something else: Posture, vapor, images, and his exploitation of a tragedy.
We are to accept that Rudy is unlucky in love and not a bad decision maker in his personal life as well, with hard feelings from one divorce causing his own son to refuse to campaign for him. Now we are being asked once again to ignore the orange powder all over him.
Events such as the Kerik/Giuliani nexus demonstrate how, ultimately, we can’t always blame media. True, media played Giuliani’s 9/11 song “I Was There and I Cared,” if you will, over and over until it became a hit. But if voters ignore the Kerik residue on Giuliani’s suit and tie, that’s on us. If, after Bush, the GOP nominates a candidate who in November of the year before the elections was already deflecting corruption charges, then they will have expressed their contempt for us and the voting process with even more clarity than they did in Florida.
Candidate Giuliani would have us believe that his advancement of Kerik was a one-off mistake in a giant cosmos of decisions he’s made. Rudy: “But I think you have to look at the thousands of choices I’ve made of people, and you have to look at the results that I got. I must have been making the decisions about people mostly correctly, because I was able to reduce crime by 66 percent.” Unfortunately, in the decision-making category of “People I Supported and Advanced for More Than a Decade,” Kerik raised crime 100 percent. Damn that sticky orange cheese!