Friday 10 December 2004

All hail to Caligula's horse

And you thought the first Bush term was bad...

Bush's new head of homeland security is perfect for the job

In the legend of the war on terrorism, Bernard Kerik, with his trademark shaven head, bristling moustache and black belt in karate, occupies a special place as rough and ready hero. Having risen from military policeman to narcotics detective to New York City police commissioner, he finds himself on 9/11 shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As the towers crumble the mayor confides in his buddy: "Bernie, thank God George Bush is president."

After the invasion of Iraq, Bush assigns Kerik to train the new Iraqi security forces. Mission accomplished, he returns to Giuliani Partners and becomes motivational speaker to captains of industry, his net worth skyrocketing. One of his most notable aphorisms: "Political criticism is our enemies' best friend." Kerik, the decorated detective, leads an investigation into the safety of cheaper Canadian prescription drugs and accompanies Giuliani before the Senate subcommittee on investigations where he testifies on their danger. (Kerik and Giuliani are rewarded handsomely by their client, the US pharmaceutical drug lobby.)

After John Kerry closes the gap in the presidential debates, Kerik rushes to the rescue, ominously warning of terrorist attacks, "If you put Senator Kerry in the White House, I think you are going to see that happen." Finally, Bush announces Bernard Kerik as the new secretary of homeland security.

The department of homeland security is a bureaucratic Byzantium consisting of 22 agencies with a huge budget exceeding $40bn. Bernard Kerik's appointment was suggested to Bush by Giuliani. With this favour, Kerik's meteoric career has reached its zenith. The high school dropout Kerik fathered an illegitimate daughter in Korea, whom he refused to acknowledge and support. He became a bodyguard for Saudi royals and then a New York narcotics cop. In 1993, he was tapped as Giuliani's chauffeur and bodyguard.

Giuliani made Kerik deputy police commissioner and chief of the corrections department. One million dollars in taxpayers' money used to buy tobacco for inmates disappeared into a private foundation run by Kerik without any accounting. In 2000, Giuliani leapfrogged Kerik over many more qualified candidates to appoint him police commissioner.

Kerik spent much of his time after 9/11 writing a self-promoting autobiography, The Lost Son. The city's conflict of interest board eventually fined him $2,500 for using three policemen to conduct his research.

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