Bernie Kerik: The Opera? By BECKY O'MALLEY

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Adultery (cheating on his wife with two different mistresses, simultaneously). Bribery. Mob ties. Abuse of authority. Incompetence. Shady business deals. You name it, Bernie Kerik can be, and has been, accused of it, in news reports which started surfacing over the weekend. The laws of probability suggest that he might have done some of it, if not all of it. No matter, his unforgiveable sin seems to have been paying for the hire of a nanny and a housekeeper whose immigration papers were not in order.  

According to Sunday’s New York Times “Mr. Kerik withdrew from consideration on Friday evening and said his discovery that he had employed a nanny and housekeeper who appeared to have been in the country illegally was the sole reason. White House officials say that the nanny matter was not disclosed during their background investigation, and that none of the other matters that they were aware of were sufficient to disqualify Mr. Kerik.” 

So now we know the sin which is beyond redemption for the Bush administration: nanny negligence. Land on the illegal nanny square, don’t pass go, don’t collect two million dollars, though you probably won’t go directly to jail. It’s perversely amusing to see this situation coming back to bite a Bush appointee, and a man yet, after it was used so effectively by Republicans to defeat an excellent female judicial candidate in the Clinton years. If, of course, the Bushies are telling the truth, which would be a novelty. 

Kerik is a protégé of folk hero Rudy Guiliani, whose tough guy demeanor after 9-11 cancelled out any possible opprobrium which might have attached to his own complicated sexual hanky-panky in Gracie Mansion when he was mayor of New York City. Evidently real guys like Rudy and Bernie are just expected to have fun, and no one should hold it against them. But if they hire the wrong nanny, it’s curtains. Oh sure. 

Now, which of you out there believes that Bernie Kerik selected his own domestic staff? How could he possibly have had time to do the interviews, what with the two mistresses and the back room confabs with mobsters?  

The New York Post reported on his wife’s role at the December 4 White House ceremony announcing his nomination for the post of director of homeland security:  

“Kerik’s wife, Hala, and three of his children sat in the front row of chairs facing the president. The Syrian-born Hala seemed preoccupied during most of the ceremony by her two youngest daughters, Angelina and Celine, who played with small plastic purple Easter eggs. At one point, one of the eggs fell to the floor and rolled toward Bush’s feet.”  

Does that sound like a mom who makes her husband hire the nanny? We think not. Dare we suggest that the nanny question is just a convenient out for a candidate who turns out to have a whole flock of skeletons in his closet?  

The man sounds like he should be selling his life story as the successor to The Sopranos, or possibly as the libretto for a new opera. We encountered a neighbor of the La Vereda Street Rossetto family compound in the balcony at the San Francisco Opera last week. He’d attended the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on the Rossettos’ latest proposed building project, and was bowled over by the panoply of slick lawyers, orotund flacks and attendant characters they had mustered for the occasion, not to mention by the Rossettos themselves. He suggested that someone ought to commission composer John Adams to do an opera score, using the commission transcript as the libretto. Seems promising.  

A similar treatment might work for the Bernie Kerik saga. The only question would be whether it should be the usual operatic tragedy, or if a comic opera would be more appropriate. Bernie will surely land on his feet—anyone as well wired as he seems to be shouldn’t have to worry about a tragic denouement. 

—Becky O’Malley