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Headlines Kerik debacle raises questions on vetting


Seeker of Truth
Chicago Tribune

As details about Bernard Kerik's life have become public--his connections to a company with possible mob ties, a third marriage he never disclosed and a 1998 warrant for his arrest over unpaid bills--the White House is being pressured to explain why President Bush nominated him to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

White House officials maintain that the former New York City police commissioner decided to withdraw from consideration for the nation's top anti-terrorism post after realizing he may have broken federal law when he hired a nanny who may have been an illegal immigrant and failed to pay taxes for her service. As homeland security chief, Kerik would have been in charge of enforcing immigration law.

But the nanny issue was only the beginning of Kerik's potential problems. Why White House officials did not catch--or worry about--other warning signs remains an open question. The Bush White House had not hit a bump like this since Linda Chavez withdrew as the labor secretary nominee in 2001 after she acknowledged employing an illegal immigrant.

The Kerik debacle could also be ill-timed for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, whose office handles much of the vetting of presidential appointees. Gonzales, nominated for attorney general, is preparing for his Senate hearings.

"Somebody needs to say, `Where was Alberto Gonzales?"' said Paul Light, a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service who has studied presidential appointments. "This was a glaring error in the White House counsel's office.
The guy at the top of Department of Homeland Security all Mobbed up? Classic...