Great first impressions.
Sunday's Times has an article about the Bush-Kerik relationship that is damning without quite saying so.
The upshot is that Bush and Kerik bonded at some very basic level when Bush toured ground zero just after 9/11 -- something that seems both very believable and very human. Kerik embodied traits, says the article, that Bush instinctively admires -- toughness, a clear sense of right and wrong, being down to earth rather than a phony or an elitist. The headline of the article says "In Kerik, Bush Saw Values Crucial to Post-9/11 World."
Bush's admiration grew as Kerik first accepted the summons to go to Baghdad to run the Interior Ministry and then campaign aggressively for his reelection.
It was on the basis of his instincts about Kerik, much more than Rudy's prodding, that prompted Bush to nominate him to run DHS.
It's a great example -- almost a morality play -- of one of the key flaws in the president's leadership. He gets clear first impressions and makes judgments based on instinct. And then there's almost no follow-up, no challenging instinct with the harsh light of facts. And certainly no accountability. More often than the not, or course, the instinct turns out to just be wrong. As with Iraq, and Putin's soul and now Kerik.
The turn in Baghdad? Even his supporters concede that it was at best a wash and by many measures it was a disaster. Whether there were any sweetheart contracts he might have signed off on, as some reports suggest, remains to be seen. The rest of his career -- as a bit of nexis research and reporting reveals -- is a string of scandals, unethical behavior, self-dealing and various other sorts of soft or hard corruption. And it seems you can't go far down the corridors and entry-ways of the guy's life without bumping into mafiosi or this or that mob racket to which he happened to be in close proximity.
I trust there's no need to belabor the point, with all we've reported here in recent days, that the president would judge Kerik a man of the sort of values that we need in the post 9/11 world. (If that's true, I guess 9/11 really did change everything.)
You can trust your instincts too much -- particularly if you have bad instincts.