One Police Plaza

Kerik's Got Bush's Back

October 20, 2003

Call it the NYPD's Harvard connection.

We begin in the north room on the third floor of the Harvard Club, where the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research held a forum.

As befits perhaps the city's best-known collection of neo-conservative intellectuals, the topic was a weighty one: the United States' role in post-war Iraq.

To answer that question, the group turned to the international soldier-statesman, military strategist and possible political candidate who just last year obtained his degree from Empire State College, former police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Kerik was accompanied by his team of Wise Men, including former Chief Tom Fahey, a police spokesman for Kerik who is considered so loyal to the department he bleeds NYPD blue. Fahey is perhaps best known for sending homicide detectives to question people at their homes at 2 a.m. about the missing cell phone of Judith Regan, the editor and publisher of Kerik's best-selling autobiography "The Lost Son."

Kerik was also accompanied by criminal attorney Joe Tacopina, a Court TV commentator, who is perhaps best known for his defense of police officer Thomas Wiese, a co-defendant with Justin Volpe in the Abner Louima brutality trial.

Sunny Mindel, the spokeswoman for Rudolph Giuliani who was known to readers of this column as "Sunny the Silent," was also there. Kerik is the chief executive of something called Giuliani-Kerik LLC.

Now onto Iraq, where Kerik spent three months earlier this year, inaugurating the training for that country's newly created national police force, departing unexpectedly the day before a bomb went off in an office he was due to visit.

First, the Giuliani connection. Kerik explained he had learned of his Iraq assignment when the White House called him on his cell phone. "My name came up at a cabinet meeting I was told." The next day the Pentagon suggested he visit Washington. When he returned to New York he called Giuliani to inform him the White House wanted him in Iraq.

"Yeah, I know. They already told me," Giuliani said to him.

Here now are some of Kerik's further bon mots, revealing him as a four-square supporter of President George W. Bush's policies.

"I don't care if they find them [weapons of mass destruction] or not. Saddam tortured and killed one million people. Somebody had to go there."

"It is better to fight terrorists in Iraq than in New York or Washington."

"On Sept. 10, 2001, would anyone say there was an imminent threat? At what point does it become an imminent threat?"

"Saddam didn't do 9/11. But did Saddam fund, and train al-Qaida? The answer is yes. Then ask yourself, who hit the towers?"

Finally, Kerik had this to say to critics of the war: "Political criticism is our enemies' best friend."

Run, Bernie, run? Now for the question on the minds of all New Yorkers. Will Baghdad Bernie run for mayor? Kerik [as told to Your Humble Servant right after his talk] said: "Michael Bloomberg is doing a good job. I have no intention of running against him."

What about running should Bloomberg decide his numbers are too low to make a race? He paused. Sunny the Silent walked up to him and whispered in his ear.

"I don't deal in hypotheticals," Kerik said.

Meanwhile down at 1PP. Back at mundane old One Police Plaza, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who actually received his master's degree in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, was asked about Chief of Department Joe Esposito's decision to pull Bruce Springsteen's police escort after he played "American Skin (41 Shots)," a riff on the shooting of Amadou Diallo, at a concert at Shea Stadium.

Here from a tape recording is Kelly's answer.

"I think what happened is Chief Esposito directed that coverage be given to Bruce Springsteen's entourage and nothing more than given to anyone else. I think there was some indication that they wanted escorts into Manhattan and it was decided by the detail out there not to do that based on the interpretation that they get what people normally get."

Kelly was then asked whether the New York Civil Liberties Union drew the correct conclusion that Esposito yanked the escort because Springsteen played the offending Diallo song.

"I am only telling you what I believe to have happened there. I don't know if somebody may have taken that direction, interpreted it in a different way but there were people looking for escorts into Manhattan and that was turned down."

Moral of the story: Bruce Springsteen didn't play "American Skin (41 Shots)" at the two remaining concerts at Shea. Two, just because you attended Harvard doesn't mean you can speak English.

©2003 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.