Weekend At Bernie’s: Two Questions

In case you weren’t paying attention this weekend, Bernie Kerik imploded. The collapse of his candidacy for Homeland Security Secretary leaves two questions.

1- Was it really the nanny? Kerik claimed he was withdrawing because he discovered he’d employed an illegal alien. Some bloggers, notably Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall, have been making the case that the nanny was just an excuse for Kerik’s real reason for pulling out: of embarassing, A1 disclosures about his finances and and personal life, and unanswered questions about his abbreviated stint in Iraq. The Times makes a similar suggestion today.

That makes superficial sense, but it’s not what we — and the Washington Post, and other Times reporters — are hearing. The White House line is that the problem was that Kerik had…failed to tell…the White House about the nanny, an unforgivable breach of trust. And the timing — he was dumped immediately after telling the White House about the nanny — backs up the notion that nannygate was the main reason.

So don’t worry, nobody actually cared whether he was up to the job.

2-What does it mean for Rudy? Kerik is already a footnote, but Rudy remains. Does the end of his Teflon Period put a dent in his presidential ambitions? The Daily News editorial board (et tu, Mort?) has America’s mayor going “Down in Flames.” But cooler heads on the news side quote the ubiquitous Larry Sabato saying, “He’s still the hero for 9/11. Kerik can’t change that.” And the Post colmunist known, we’re told, as “the Pod” agrees.

We’re inclined toward the theory that this mess may be just the reality-check Rudy needed. Anybody who’s followed his and Hillary’s paths toward power for the last year or two can see the difference between her well-oiled machine and his solo performance. Newsday signs off with this blind quote from an anonymous — though we have a couple of guesses — Republican strategist:

“I’m sorry, but the people around him are the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” said the strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I’ve had this conversation with U.S. senators and other party leaders and they all say the same thing: Rudy’s got to hire a team of people who are ready for prime time and have a plan.”