The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rudy and Bernie: B.F.F.’s

p-Ed Columnist

Rudy and Bernie: B.F.F.’s

The past seven years have
given us some helpful hints on what we want to avoid in the next
president. I’m starting to make a list.

Quality to avoid No. 1: Loyalty.

Whenever you read that a candidate “values loyalty above all else” —
run for the hills. Loyalty is a terribly important consideration if
you’re choosing a pet, but not a cabinet member.

How about if this time we try for a president who would recruit
gifted people who can accomplish great things, as opposed to a room
full of dopes who will never write tell-all memoirs?

Loyalty is on our mind today because of the indictment of Bernard
Kerik, the really, really loyal former New York City police
commissioner. Rudy Giuliani, who was entirely responsible for Kerik’s
meteoric rise from mayoral chauffeur, has not seemed to draw any great
lessons from his protégé’s spectacular fall. Giuliani did say that he
made a “mistake in not clearing him effectively enough,” which sounds
as if he is kicking himself for not sending a second squad of
detectives out to interview Kerik’s neighbors. In fact, the lapse in
the “clearing” procedure involved Giuliani ignoring the city
investigations commissioner when he arrived with the news that Kerik
was involved with a company suspected of having ties to organized crime.

Giuliani claims not to remember this moment in the vetting process,
which seems sort of strange for a guy who made his career prosecuting
the mafia and those-who-had-ties. The former mayor does, however, have
a bad memory. We know this because he obtained an annulment of his
14-year-long first marriage on the grounds that he had forgotten that
his wife was his second cousin.

On the terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001, Kerik was with the mayor as
Giuliani left the disaster at ground zero, searching for a telephone to
contact the outside world. Also loyally at the mayor’s side were three
deputy mayors, the fire commissioner and the head of the Office of
Emergency Management. They all walked north, in a little command-clump,
intent on the central mission of protecting their main man. You would
have thought, really, that the protecting job could have been done by
youthful aides while the alleged leaders tended to the fire, emergency
and police problems downtown.

But if anybody had stayed behind, focusing on the wider city rather
than the man who had plucked them all out of obscurity and given them
everything they had, how would he know they were loyal? The ties forged
in that clump of commanders catapulted them into extremely well-paying
jobs in the firm of Giuliani Partners and convinced the mayor to
propose Bernard Kerik as the next chief of the Department of Homeland
Security, a position for which he was approximately as well qualified
as I am to be quarterback for the New England Patriots.

Giuliani had a great police commissioner, Bill Bratton, during his
first term when all the critical crime-fighting apparatus for which the
administration became so famous was put into place. But Bratton was not
particularly loyal, in the sense that he did his job well, then enjoyed
taking credit for it himself. And so he was gone.

There is an entire chapter in Rudy Giuliani’s famous book
“Leadership” that is titled “Loyalty, the Vital Virtue.” In it, he pats
himself on the back for making a man named Robert Harding the city’s
budget director even though he knew the ever-feckless news media would
point out that Harding’s father, Ray, was the chairman of the city’s
Liberal Party, whose endorsement had done a great deal to get Giuliani
elected mayor. “I wasn’t going to choose a lesser candidate simply to
quiet the critics,” he said.

For some mysterious reason, the book skips over a much better
loyalty lesson involving the very same family. Giuliani demonstrated
his loyalty to Ray Harding, giver of the Liberal Party endorsement, not
only by giving his qualified son a good job, but also by turning over
the New York City Housing Development Corporation to another son,
Russell, who wound up embezzling more than $400,000 for vacations,
gifts and parties. We will not even go into the pornography part,
except to point out in his defense that of the 15,000 sexually explicit
images found on his computer, only a few were of children.

The Giuliani version of loyalty, which bears a terrifying
resemblance to the George W. Bush brand of loyalty, is entirely about
self-protection. An administration safe beneath the loyalty cone does
not have to worry much about leaks to the press, or even

People can screw up, or fail to achieve their missions, knowing the
guy at the top will protect them as long as they put his well-being
ahead of anything else. When disaster strikes, the whole world may be
falling apart, but they will all be clumped together, walking north.

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