Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As long we're on the story, pretty bang-up job vetting Kerik by Al Gonzales, right?

Contrary to expectations based on the torture memos, as overseer of the FBI, Gonzales may actually have been a boon to civil libertarians since it doesn't seem he's thorough enough to endanger anyone's privacy or civil liberties.

Another thought. Why is the Times getting beaten like a dirty rug on the Kerik story by Newsday and the Daily News, not to mention Newsweek?

To date, as near as I can tell, all their coverage has focused on the increasingly threadbare excuse of the nanny problem. And they've made only one passing reference to Newsweek's scoop about the 1998 arrest warrant.

(Here Kevin Drum perceptively notes how the 'nanny problem' is becoming Washington's turbo-charged version of 'wanting to spend more time with the family.')

The Times has the big Washington bureau. And presumably they have some presence in New York City. So they should be all over this one rather than reporting it from White House-approved off-the-record comments.

Maybe they can get some leads on the story by picking up the tabs ...

[ed. note: In fairness, the Times OpEd page, which operates separately from news, was ahead of the game editorializing on the problems with Kerik's nomination.]

In case you haven't noticed, the White House wants us to believe that the fact that Bernard Kerik didn't pay taxes for his nanny -- who, by the way, no one seems to have heard any facts or details about -- just wouldn't do for the Secretary of DHS.

But that fact that one of Kerik's long-time financial "benefactors" during his late-1990s rise through the New York police and corrections bureaucracy, Lawrence Ray, was later indicted in a "a $40 million, mob-run, pump-and-dump stock swindle."

You can find the rest of the details on that little part of the story in the Daily News.

Meanwhile, Newsweek brings us some news on the rapid departure from Baghdad ...

But Kerik didn't seem to show much interest in Iraqis, said a senior U.S. official who worked with him. He appeared to enjoy going on night raids against "bad guys" with some South African mercenaries who were serving as bodyguards to U.S. officials. On his screen saver, Kerik had a photo of a big house he had just bought in New Jersey that he said was across the street from former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms's. Kerik told his colleagues he planned to be in Baghdad for three months while the house was undergoing renovations. "So," the official says he told Kerik, "you're here because you needed a place to go while they're doing renovations on your house." Kerik grinned and cocked a finger as if to say, "You got it."

Of all the sources I thought to contact <$Ad$>on that story, it never dawned on me that Jersey contractors or upholsterers would have been the place to go for the inside scoop. But I'm never very imaginative.

Then there's the story that celebrity book publisher Judith Regan had to hire a personal bodyguard when Kerik started 'hounding' her after their relationship went sour.

Newsweek also adds another detail on why this whole debacle didn't come out of nowhere. Earlier today I was exchanging emails with a friend and told him that I didn't think it was Rudy alone who did or could have gotten Kerik this job.

Rudy may have chits (or I guess we should make that had chits). But he didn't have nearly enough to give this job to someone with so many red flags on him he might as well have been a Moscow May Day parade circa 1950.

Something else was at work. And Newsweek helps here too: "[S]ome administration officials acknowledge that the president's predilections work against a careful review. Bush hates leaks and enjoys popping surprise announcements on the press. He liked the idea of Kerik—the self-made tough guy—and he dismissed as gossip or press carping newspaper stories about Kerik's bending the rules."

So let's see. The president liked the image of Kerik. And once he got fixed on the idea that it was a crackerjack idea to put him at DHS, he dismissed all the stories about Kerik's recklessness and scofflawry as just so much whinning from the nattering nabobs of negativism.

(Remind you of anything?)

The emphasis on secrecy also seemed to help keep the prez from getting any disquieting information. And Al Gonzales, who ran the vetting process on Kerik, was either too sloppy or too much of a yes-man to bring any of this stuff to the president's attention.

I must say that after Tim Johnson defeated John Thune in 2002, I always thought Daschle would pull out a win over Thune in 2004. I underestimated the effects of the years of Daschle-bashing from the right. Daschle could certainly go toe to toe with the Republicans and knew how to throw an elbow. But I remember a Daschle aide once telling me, in a half-resigned, half-admiring frustration, of a staff meeting in which there was some discussion of playing hardball with some opponent -- I can't remember what they were suggesting or even what the context was. And Daschle's response, seemingly without irony or any double-meaning, was "It's not the Daschle way." And that was that. Perhaps a bit of stiff rectitude, but more a basic decency, one that may not always have served him well in the shiv-play that is now Washington. But I'll let others be the judge of that. Today the Post and the Times both run tributes and sum-ups of the departing Minority Leader. Take particular note of the accomplishments noted in the piece in the Post.

Yep, just a problem with the <$NoAd$> nanny (from Newsday) ...

In the 48 hours before his withdrawal as nominee for the nation's top security post, Bernard Kerik and his lawyer scrambled to keep damaging assertions about his past out of the public spotlight.


On Thursday, the day before he took his name from contention, Kerik, 49, was forced to testify in a civil lawsuit about an alleged affair with a subordinate.

The case, which involves Kerik's use of authority when he was city correction commissioner between 1998 and 2000, was brought against the city by a former deputy warden. Plaintiff Eric DeRavin III contends Kerik kept him from getting promoted because he had reprimanded the woman, Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero.

The Daily News wanted to get a piece of the action too ...

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik accepted thousands of dollars in cash and gifts without making proper public disclosures, a Daily News investigation has revealed.

Kerik failed to report the gifts on financial disclosure forms he was required to file with the city as head of the both the NYPD and, before that, the Department of Correction.


The News probe calls into question his conduct while holding two of the city's most important public offices.

The probe revealed that for many years, one of Kerik's main benefactors was Lawrence Ray, the best man at Kerik's 1998 wedding, according to Ray, other sources and checks shown by Ray to The News.

Ray and another Kerik pal, restaurant owner Carmen Cabell, helped bankroll Kerik's 1998 wedding reception, contributing nearly $10,000.

Ray also gave Kerik nearly $2,000 to buy a bejeweled Tiffany badge that Kerik coveted when he was Correction commissioner.

And Ray said he gave Kerik $4,300 more to buy high-end Bellini furniture when Kerik allegedly griped that he couldn't afford to furnish a bedroom for a soon-to-be born daughter.

The city's Conflicts of Interest Board requires officials to report any gifts of $1,000 or more.

The board's definition of gifts includes cash, free travel, and wedding presents not given by relatives.

Intentionally failing to report gifts is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. The board also can impose civil fines of up to $10,000. The News has examined Kerik's disclosure forms and there is no record of any of the gifts for the period concerned.

At the time of the gifts, Ray was working for Interstate Industrial, then a major city contractor. City ethics rules bar officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 from anyone doing business with the city. The company hired Ray based on a recommendation from Kerik, according to a sworn deposition by Interstate's owner Frank DiTomasso. New Jersey gaming regulators said Kerik had confirmed to them that he had vouched for Ray.

Kerik has run afoul of ethics rules before, having been fined $2,500 by the board for dispatching detectives to investigate his mother's death as part of the research for his best-selling memoir, "The Lost Son."


Despite his finances, Kerik's November 1998 wedding was a grand affair. It was attended by Donna Hanover, then Mayor Giuliani's wife, Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota, and state Supreme Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder.

The reception was held at The Chanticler, in Millburn, N.J., one of the Garden State's premier catering facilities. Kerik and his new wife, Hala, entertained 230 guests in the facility's Empress Room.

"This thing was top shelf," said one person who attended. "Martini bar, full spread, the works."

Ray wrote a check for $1,000 in July 1998 to cover the deposit. Cabell wrote a check for $6,688 to the Chanticler on the day of the wedding. Six weeks after the wedding, Cabell wrote another $2,000 check to the Chanticler.

"Bernie was a close friend of myself and Larry's that needed help," Cabell told The News. "I helped him in the planning, details and cost of the wedding."

Kerik still couldn't pay the remaining balance, and the Chanticler threatened to sue, Ray and Cabell said. Ray's attorney's handled correspondence with the Chanticler, until Ray and Cabell covered the remaining balance.

"Bernie told everybody those guys paid for it," said one official who attended. The reception was not the first time that Ray covered Kerik's tab. After Kerik was named correction commissioner in January 1998, he pleaded with underlings to buy him a Tiffany badge like the one given to the police commissioner, department sources told The News.

"He just had to have one because the police commissioner always gets one," said a source who then worked at Correction Department headquarters. In April 1998, Ray wrote a check out to Jorge Ocasio, then Kerik's chief of staff, for $1,895 with "Tiffany badge" written in the memo field.

Ray's wife, Teresa, issued the certified check to Bellini on Feb. 22, 2000, shortly before the March 3 birth of Kerik's daughter, Celine.

Ray, who acknowledged the gifts to The News after the paper showed him other evidence of the pattern, said he was flush at the time and Kerik always complained about surviving on his civil servant salary.

"He was always crying about money," Ray said. "Like before Celine was born, he was always saying he couldn't believe how much everything cost and they were out of money."

Ray also showed The News a check for $2,500 that his wife made out to "cash" on Aug. 29, 1999. The check was endorsed and cashed by Kerik.

In total, Ray and Cabell showed The News checks to the value of $18,400. At the time, Ray's own finances were deteriorating.

A week after Kerik's daughter was born, Ray and 18 other men were indicted in a $40 million, mob-run, pump-and-dump stock swindle. Kerik repeatedly spoke to Ray's criminal defense attorney before the indictment, but he dropped his longtime benefactor when the case became public.

"We never saw Ray around Corrections again," said the headquarters source.

Cash-n-Kerik ... the single nanny theory.

Does the Bush administration care more about preventing nuclear proliferation or letting John Bolton play payback games with IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei?

Wait, don't answer that question.

The Post reports tomorrow that Bush administration officials have been busily poring over transcripts of intercepts of ElBaradei's phone conversations with Iranian diplomats in search of ammunition to try to unseat him from his post at the IAEA.

Unfortunately for them, they don't seem to have come up with anything. Also revealing is the fact that they have apparently had little luck finding another lackey to throw his hat into the ring to replace the embattled ElBaradei.

Before going any further, let's stipulate that this isn't the first administration to listen in on diplomats' and foreign leaders' phone calls. Nor, to my lights at least, is there any inherent problem in doing so, so long as the ability isn't abused. This is, after all, part of what we're talking about when we talk about having an intelligence service.

But unless I'm missing something this administration seems to get caught doing it more than probably any administration in recent memory, or perhaps ever. Or at least it ends up on the front pages of the papers. And that's really not a good thing. Especially when it exposes (admittedly, as though they needed much exposing) high-ranking officials using US signals intelligence capabilities to pursue dingbat vendettas or to give Bolton a bit more ammunition in his battles with Colin Powell.

Let's broaden this out a bit, shall we?

Perhaps we were too hasty in criticizing the president for only giving cabinet nominations to people who have already served as his butler, or footman or personal tutor. Because when he goes outside his personal circle the process seems almost comically inept, hasty and reckless.

I guess for the next day or so we've got to keep pretending that it was this nanny issue that cost Kerik the post. And the Post has a story out tomorrow with the first reports that Kerik lied to them about the nanny thing. But then there's this passage ...

In the vetting process, which was conducted by the office of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, Kerik also never mentioned that a New Jersey judge had issued a warrant for his arrest in 1998 over a civil dispute over unpaid bills, the sources said. The existence of the dispute was first reported by Newsweek Friday night.

It is unclear why White House lawyers could not uncover a warrant that Newsweek discovered after a few days of research, although some are blaming Bush's insistence on speed and secrecy for failing to catch this and other potential red flags in Kerik's background.

"[T]his and other potential red flags."

That's <$Ad$> sort of a charitable way of putting it, isn't it?

As nearly as I can tell, almost every major assignment Kerik has had turns out to have been hazed over with clouds of scandal. At the posting in Saudi Arabia he is, it seems credibly, accused of pursuing his boss's private agenda and spying on the boss's many paramours on his behalf.

Then on Kerik watch, Riker's Island turned into a latter-day GOP Tammany Hall, with punishment meted out to employees who didn't do off-duty work for Republicans. At the NYPD there were reportedly other problems. And then you've got the Baghdad bug-out after that.

And then you've got the 9/11-based security rainmaking with Rudy, though perhaps that's considered an advantage since he could work better at DHS with former employers.

Perhaps Kerik is just misunderstood or has a lot of ungenerous accusers. Or I'm just putting it all in the worst light. But was this really the best pick for Homeland Security, given that the president has made it the central issue of his presidency?

Late Update: In this article in the Times, David Sanger makes explicit the analogy to Linda Chavez's abortive nomination to the Department of Labor, which we mentioned earlier. But if the Bush White House really wants to stick with the story that this nanny business was really all that sunk Kerik, doesn't that mean that all the other cases of scandal and evidence of his using police power to pursue personal and political agendas just didn't matter to them?

Newsday: "The short, disastrous nomination of Bernard Kerik ended with a whimper and may have ended Rudolph Giuliani's Teflon period -- a three-year stretch when his status as "America's Mayor" largely obscured his own shortcomings and the foibles of close associates."

The headline is "Flameout burns Rudy politically."

And how ...

The one clear casualty of the Cash-n-Kerik debacle is Rudy Giuliani. How much has his star been dimmed in Republican circles over this? Or at least in Bush circles. Or is there a difference anymore?

In all the flurry of stories about Bernard Kerik<$NoAd$>, I must confess that I missed this one in Wednesday's Post about his time in Saudi Arabia. This had been one of the many apparent feathers in Kerik's cap.

But according to the Post article ...

Since he was nominated last week to be homeland security secretary, however, nine former employees of the hospital have said that Kerik and his colleagues were carrying out the private agenda of the hospital's administrator, Nizar Feteih, and that the surveillance was intended to control people's private affairs. Feteih became embroiled in a scandal that centered in part on his use of the institution's security staff to track the private lives of several women with whom he was romantically involved, and men who came in contact with them, the ex-employees said.

Not only is this a rather unfortunate record, if true, but it jibes with other parts of his history -- running Riker's island as a Republican fief, the undying and unlimited fealty to Rudy, the rainmaking, whatever mumbo-jumbo happened in Iraq.