In calculating his odds of getting confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security, former New
York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik and his advisers had
reckoned they could handle the issue of Kerik's reputation for
occasional lapses of judgment in personal matters. Or that the smell
of some conflict-of-interest issues still clung to him. "Everything
seemed pretty normal, at least by Washington or New York standards,"
his mentor and boss, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani,
told TIME. "It is never pleasant. You deal with it." But they hadn't
counted on the nanny. Kerik's disclosure, a week after President
George W. Bush had announced his selection, that a nanny he had once
employed may have been an illegal immigrant, and that he had not paid
some taxes on her salary, became the fatal flaw for the man whose
prospective job would include enforcing immigration laws. "The good
news is he found it, he came forward and he cut off a bitter conflict
that would have cost the President capital," Giuliani says. "The bad
news is that it could have been caught earlier."
Giuliani insists that his protege's withdrawal is solely about the
nanny problemand not about the cacophony of other issues that
surfaced, like Kerik's recent $6.2 million windfall from exercising
stock options in Taser International, a stun-gun company on whose
board he serves and which does business with the Department of
Homeland Security. Kerik never warned the Bush Administration about a
potential nanny issue, a senior official says. "He's a workaholic.
These are things he doesn't concentrate on," says Giuliani. When
Kerik called the White House to tell them of the problem and his
decision, the senior official says, Bush's advisers quickly agreed
that it had become a no-win proposition. "Bernie made the right
decision," Giuliani says. "It would have been a
really tough fight. And this is a very sensitive department, where
you need leadership, quickly."