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Proposed Homeland Security Czar scratched

Nanny problem delays Nanny State succession

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Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has withdrawn from the running to become America's next Homeland Security Secretary, due to his hiring of an illegal alien to work as a nanny.

The woman, whom Kerik refused to identify "out of respect for her privacy," returned to her native country only days before his nomination for the DHS job. Because DHS is responsible for immigration enforcement, a personal slip-up in this area would prove fatal during Senate confirmation hearings.

During an interview with the Associated Press, Kerik said he had discovered documents that "led me to question the tax filings regarding a housekeeper and nanny that was employed by me in my house, a very nice woman, a very good woman, someone who loves my children, and they love her."

According to the AP, on Friday, Kerik said he had "come to realize that that there was not only a problem with the filings; there may have been a question with regard to her legal status in the country. Based on that, and based on precedent - and, really, it was most important that this was the right thing to do - I contacted the White House and told them I would like to withdraw my name."

Kerik said that the difficulty had not previously been disclosed to the Bush Administration due to an innocent oversight on his part.

No doubt Kerik considered the immigration issue to be the most palatable public excuse for his withdrawal. But he would have been in for a rough ride during confirmation for many other reasons, including questions about his past financial dealings, about the illegal political use of City Corrections Department employees while he was New York's Corrections Commissioner, and about conflicts of interest between him and several contractors and suppliers of products and services to DHS.

Certainly, none of these potential issues is worse than the sort of routine corner-cutting that pretty much every normal person indulges from time to time. But Kerik's public mythology casting him as a zealous, hyper-scrupulous stickler with a tendency to pounce on the most minor of infractions makes his own rule-bending a deliciously ironic embarrassment. Had he been a bit more laid back in his public-service career, he would still likely have stumbled on the nanny issue, but at least he wouldn't look like such a colossal hypocrite.

Possible Kerik replacements include former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Director Asa Hutchinson, currently the number-two man at DHS; former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Albaugh; White House Security Advisor Frances Townsend; and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox. ®

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