At the request of Rudolph Giuliani, who would like to be President of the United States, George W. Bush, who is currently the President of the United States, nominated Bernard Kerik to be Secretary of Homeland Security, which ought to be an extremely important job.
Later it came out that Kerik had an extremely badly blotted copybook, both personal and official, of the kind that even the most cursory sort of background check would have discovered. This wasn’t just someone who did something dumb once and exposed himself to a journalistic “gotcha”; this was a walking textbook of conduct disorder.
Kerik is presumably no longer going to be a public figure, but facts about Kerik are clearly relevant to the evaluation of Bush and Giuliani.
I haven’t followed the “love nest” part of the story carefully. (The “mob ties” part of the story seemed exciting to me, which may say something about me.) Pehaps the original implication that Kerik improperly converted an apartment designated by a private as a rest area for police and firefighters to his own private (as it happened, adulterous) use was wrong, and that in fact all of his extramarital boffing was done on his own dime.
(What we know, apparently, is that Kerik, as police commissioner, asked one of the local landlords, a police buff, to donate an apartment as a rest area for police and firefighters, that the landlord did so, and that Kerik later rented the apartment for himself, including carrying on his love affair. What we don’t know is whether the dallying started before or after Kerik started paying rent.)
If all that was involved was adultery, that doesn’t constitute a legitimate news story, though renting a space overlooking Ground Zero for that particular purpose does strike me as a little bit weird. If, however, the Police Commissioner of New York was using an apartment that he requested be made available for the use of rescue workers for his own private purposes, that’s a different matter.
That the sexual angle gives it a special tingle for the tabloids — which, today, includes the broadsheets — is no doubt true, but not dispositive. It’s still about using public office for private gain.
But Kaus, with Reynolds cheering, doesn’t just criticize the press for going after Kerik. Kaus says, “I especially look forward to the paper’s multiple-reporter investigation of Hillary Clinton’s erotic life when she runs for Senate in 2006.”
Now, there are two possibilities here, and I’m not sufficiently well plugged-in to know which is right. The first is that Kaus knows something discreditable about Hillary’s sex life — or even that something discreditable is in fact common knowledge in the haut-gossip networks to which Kaus belongs — and that Kaus is using the Kerik story to hint about it. The other is that Kaus knows nothing discreditable about Hillary’s sex life, but is willing to leave his readers with the impression that he does.
Either way, I find it pretty disgusting. Kaus’s media-criticism point, insofar as it has substance, gains nothing from the mention of Hillary’s name except for attracting the attention of Reynolds and others who can’t decide from day to day whether they hate Hillary Clinton slightly more than they hate the New York Times or whether it’s the other way around.
At least Kaus hasn’t previously made it a practice to talk about the erotic lives of political figures, so he would have had some standing to object when other journalistic outlets do so. Now, of course, he has done exactly what the people he criticizes have done, but without doing any actual reporting to go with it.
As to Reynolds, last seen continuing to retail baseless rumors about Sen. Kerry’s sex life, with the name of the woman falsely accused, even after they had been thoroughly discredited — when both Kerry and the other Drudge victim in the case denied everything, Reynolds merely linked to an early Clinton denial about Monica — he has no standing whatever to complain about anyone else’s journalistic ethics in this regard.
I should note that I have been a huge un-fan of Hillary Clinton, and regard the idea of running her for President as suicidal for the Democratic Party. Anything that knocked her out of contention would be, as far as I’m concerned, good news; on the past performance, she’d make a terrible candidate and a horrible President.
But that doesn’t make this sort of journalistic sneak-attack legitimate.