Ego, Power, Money, Bernie
February 22, 2010
Bernard Kerik had to wait his turn and pass through the metal detector of the federal courthouse in White Plains last Thursday, just like any civilian. The federal marshals, however, still called him, “Commissioner.”
New York City’s 40th police commissioner looked as though he had lost 20 or 30 pounds. His once-massive shoulders had shrunk to normal size.
Beside him was his wife, Hala, whom Kerik ushered into the courtroom, where he was to learn just how long and hard his fall from grace would be. With her long dark hair, heart-shaped face and shapely figure, Kerik’s wife resembled, of all people, Judith Regan, his glamorous book publisher and former mistress who is now terrified of him.
Kerik ignored this reporter, whom he had stopped speaking to months ago. Like all of us who were genuinely fond of Kerik and imagined we knew him, the judge about to take away his freedom for four years struggled to understand him.
Federal Judge Stephen Robinson acknowledged Kerik’s “enormous charm, heroism, character, discipline and good deeds,” but added that he had used his position of “power and influence as the chief law enforcement officer of the greatest and grandest city in America” to lie, steal, and deceive the president of the United States to promote his career and himself.
Kerik’s Achilles heel was, in this reporter’s opinion, money —his love of the almighty buck and his attempt to live a life he couldn’t afford on his salary as a public official.
Robinson stated that Kerik had failed to make the right choice that public servants must make. He himself, the judge noted, would never make the big money that his law assistants do after they leave him and go into the private sector.
As Kerik rose to a position of power and influence as police commissioner of New York City, Robinson indicated that Kerik lost his way. He made new friends, all of whom had more money than he did. All of them, said Robinson, had fancier cars and lived in finer homes.
Judge Robinson then referenced a “salty” email that Kerik wrote to his pal Larry Ray, the go-between for a construction firm with alleged mob ties that sought city business and the always cash-strapped Kerik, who accepted the firm’s paying for $250,000 of renovations to his Bronx apartment.
“I can’t go to the Caribbean or Florida on a three-day stint just because my dick gets hard or because I need a rest,” Kerik lamented to Ray. “I can’t afford to go out every day to eat, to have a million dollar house ... I can't go out and buy a motorcycle or car, or a Rolex watch at the drop of a dime like I've watched you do.”
Of the Bronx apartment, he wrote, “A bullshit $170,000. I had to beg, borrow and suck dick for the down-payment, and I’m still shitting over the $5,000 I need for closing if it happens.”
As Robinson suggested, Kerik felt he deserved to live like his rich friends, and used his position as police commissioner as though the law did not apply to him.
That is what the Greeks called hubris — overarching pride and arrogance, which invariably leads to a fall. In that, Kerik has plenty of company.
Listen to last week’s apology from another fallen big shot: “I convinced myself that normal rules did not apply. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I thought I worked hard my entire life and deserved all the temptations around me.” That was Tiger Woods.
For the past 15 years, the job of New York Police Commissioner has grown in power, stature and glamour to that of celebrity status. That’s especially true since 9/11.
From 1994 to 1996, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton held court at Elaine’s restaurant, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, and flew free on private jets. His fun ended when his boss, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, felt overshadowed, and used Bratton’s freebies as an excuse to dump him.
Howard Safir, who served as police commissioner from 1996 to 2000, made himself seem important by having detectives follow him about Police Plaza, clearing corridors of civilians as he passed while relaying the commissioner’s whereabouts into walkie- talkies as though his life were in danger.
At the same time, Safir had his nose up against the glass when it came to mingling with the rich and famous.
Even current commissioner Ray Kelly, who enjoys a 70 per cent approval rating, has become intoxicated with the job.
Unlike Kerik, Kelly’s issue isn’t money, although Kelly does appear to enjoy its trappings. [Check out last Aug. 30th NY Times article on his Charvet ties. Or his reputed trip on Regis Philbin’s private jet to a Notre Dame football game last fall.]
Rather, Kelly’s problem is power and ego. Check out his Wikipedia biography, which falsely claims he turned down the job of FBI Director after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Power and ego are why he’s locked down the police department so that there is no outside scrutiny.
Also check out the invitations to next month’s Police Foundation annual dinner with a star-studded cast that includes media celebs Tina Brown and Sir Harold Evans, financier Carl Icahn, entertainers Michael Douglas, Charlie Rose, and Marc Anthony.
Kelly is listed at the top of the ticket as the “Honorary Chair.”
Those invitations also offer Platinum tables at $100,000; Gold tables at $50,000; Silver tables at $25,000.
Seven years ago, Kelly cancelled his appearance at the annual dinner of the Finest Foundation because it offered a $50,000 “Commissioner’s Table,” explaining that this implied one could purchase “access.”
Just as Kerik was abetted by Giuliani, who promoted him over more qualified people, Kelly is abetted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who exercises no civilian control over him.
Consider the recent flap over inflated crime statistics. Back in 2005 when those charges first surfaced under Kelly, the chairman of the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption, Mark Pomerantz, attempted to review precinct crime reports. Kelly refused to turn them over. Bloomberg said and did nothing. Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor, had no choice but to resign.
Still, while Kelly, Safir and Bratton may have let their egos spin out of control, only Kerik went off the rails and broke the law.
Leaving the courthouse after his sentencing with Hala, her face etched in sorrow, Kerik asked that history remember him “for the 30 years of service I gave to this country and the city of New York.”
Unfortunately for him, history does not work that way.
Here’s an email from one of them, who attended Kerik’s sentencing but, because of his own potential issues with the government, asked his name not be used.
Except for cleaning up some typos, we print it uncut.
“The judge in this case is a disgrace. He jumped in and out of public service with stints with Kroll and Athena and the Empower New Haven. Hmm, he sounds like a community organizer — we all know what means. …
“Isn't it interesting no mention of organized crime connections and an actual admission by the government that there were none involved?
“So that means Bernie is being sentenced for fudging his taxes and accepting a discount on renovations by an unconnected company.
“And lying to the White House for a job he withdrew from.
“The White House lies to the American people on a daily basis and according to Democrats, the Bush White House lied about WMDs.
“Clinton lied about Monica to the American people from the White House and he was not sentenced.
“Charlie Rangel does not pay his taxes and has accepted millions in gifts he was not sentenced.
“The current Treasury Secretary did not pay his taxes until he had to but he was not and will not be sentenced although he may end up like Mussolini soon because of his incompetence.
“Oh I forgot, Bernie also lied on his mortgage application but he paid it off before the Feds found out about it.
“Can you explain in your article about VIP mortgages similar to the one Chris Dodd got?”
Copyright © 2010 Leonard Levitt