Our guy

Published December 16, 2004 3:20AM (EST)

After eating our fill at the week-long buffet of lurid Bernie Kerik stories, War Room felt a bit unsettled: how could the administration have asked so few questions about the man they were going to put in charge of homeland security?

As The New York Times reported today, part of the problem was that Kerik wasn't exactly candid during the vetting process. But that isn't a very good excuse, as a thorough vetting isn't supposed to rely on the forthrightness of its subject. Another explanation for why the White House didn't find any dirt on Kerik was that, well, they weren't trying to.

"'Throughout the process,' [a] Republican close to the administration said, 'everyone at the White House knew that Mr. Bush liked Mr. Kerik, placing him in the special category of 'this guy's our guy.''"

It's hard to blame Bush for having a soft spot for an appointee, but it's not nearly as difficult to fault him for surrounding himself with sycophants: "Mr. Bush admired Mr. Kerik for his service as New York City's police commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, for his willingness to try to train the police force in Iraq and for campaigning tirelessly for the president's re-election," the Times notes. And so while White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales went through the motions of grilling Kerik on his past, he never double-checked Kerik's answers.

That our next Attorney General could be so lax is worrisome, if not surprising. After all, Gonzales has gone out of his way in the past to tell the White House what it wants to hear -- say, for example, that those "quaint" Geneva Conventions won't get in the way of Guantanamo.

By Jeff Horwitz

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