Nov 10, 2007
Concord, N.H. (AP) - Bernard Kerik did an irresponsible job training police in Iraq, presidential contender John McCain said Friday, adding to criticism of Kerik as Rudy Giuliani's former police commissioner surrendered to face charges in New York.
McCain cited Kerik's relationship with his Republican presidential foe as a reason to doubt Giuliani's judgment.
Giuliani's longtime associate, business partner and friend surrendered Friday to face federal corruption charges in New York, where he had been police commissioner when Giuliani was mayor. Kerik was also a failed nominee to head the Homeland Security Department, a post Giuliani recommended him for.
Giuliani told reporters during a campaign stop in Henderson, Nev.: "It's a sad day because Bernie Kerik was a hero police officer." Noting that Kerik had been under scrutiny since late 2004, Giuliani reiterated his position that he should have done a better job of vetting Kerik for the Homeland Security appointment and that he had apologized to President Bush.
Told of McCain's comments, Giuliani said, "I'd be very surprised if John did that. John is a good friend ..."
All these things were out there since December 2004, since then John has described me as a hero ... as someone he has tremendous respect for, as someone whose leadership after Sept. 11 was unparalleled."
Giuliani added: "I suspect that's not John's judgment. John prides himself on being a straight shooter and nothing has changed."
McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, also pointed to Kerik's performance in Iraq, along with complaints about how Giuliani treated first-responders after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as reasons why the former mayor's presidential campaign should deserve greater scrutiny from voters.
"I don't know Mr. Kerik. I do know that I went to Baghdad shortly after the initial victory and met in Baghdad with (Ambassador Paul) Bremer and (Lt. Gen. Ricardo) Sanchez. And Kerik was there. Kerik was supposed to be there to help train the police force. He stayed two months and one day left, just up and left," McCain told reporters traveling on his campaign bus.
"That's why I never would've supported him to be the head of Homeland Security because of his irresponsible act when he was over in Baghdad to try and help train the police. One of the reasons why we had so much trouble with the initial training of the police was because he came, didn't do anything and then went out to the airport and left."
Among Giuliani's other rivals, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the indictment of Kerik "very sad and disappointing."
"You expect people who assume the public trust to abide by it and to live by high standards of ethical conduct," Romney said. He added, "It's not for me to say at this point what the implications are for Mayor Giuliani." ...
McCain, talking with reporters later Friday, alluded to his own ethical problems. He and four other senators were accused of trying to influence banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a savings and loan financier later convicted of securities fraud. The Senate Ethics Committee cited McCain's "poor judgment" but recommended no further action against him.
"Look, the thing I learned from the Keating thing really was never do or say anything that you don't mind seeing on the front pages of the major newspapers of America. That's the key to it," McCain said.
McCain campaigned on Friday with Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and the nation's first secretary of homeland security under Bush.
"It was clear the mayor and I had a different view what the department does and the kind of leadership it needed," Ridge told reporters. "His judgment would've been different than mine."
He said the situation reflected a fundamental misunderstanding by Giuliani of how the U.S. government works.
"We're not talking about some urban city patronage job," Ridge told The Associated Press. "That's not what a Cabinet secretary's about."
McCain on Friday was announcing support by a coalition of emergency "first responders," and he noted complaints by some about how New York treated its forces under Giuliani.
"As the tragic deaths of the 343 members of the New York Fire Department on 9/11 make plain, America's first responders are on the front line of this war," McCain said.
McCain said Giuliani's overall experience hasn't prepared him for the White House or to direct national security policy.
"It's a fundamental lack of experience ... I mean it's great to have led a major city. I mean, his post-crisis handling was fine. But that certainly doesn't mean you're qualified to lead."
Associated Press writers Libby Quaid in Washington, Glen Johnson in Atkinson, N.H., and Kathleen Hennessey in Henderson, Nev., contributed to this report.