Guilt By Association

Well, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are duking it out (genteelly, of course) over the ethical failings of people they associated with. Giuliani is taking heat over his championing of Bernard Kerik, the accused (but not yet convicted) former NYPD Commissioner and (briefly) Homeland Security nominee. Kerik is facing trial on numerous charges of corruption of many varied and sundry forms — a virtual smorgabord of sin.

Romney, on the other hand, is taking heat for nominating a judge who released a convicted killer accused of assaulting prison guards on his own recognizance, who then traveled across the country with his prison-groupie wife and killed a young couple. Judge Kathe Tuttman was put on the bench by Romney about two years ago, and Romney is now calling for her to resign.

The common element here is that there is no shred of evidence that either Giuliani or Romney knew that their associates were as scummy as they now seem to be revealed as today. Kerik was apparently leading a remarkable double life, and was too arrogant and stupid to realize that the higher he ascended, the more scrutiny he would be under — and sooner or later his indiscretions would come to light. The chickens have finally come home to roost — and they have brought the vultures with them. They know the smell of dead man walking.

Judge Tuttman, on the other hand, seemed like a good bet for Romney at the time. He had to get his nominee confirmed, and that meant placating the Democrats who dominated the entire rest of the Massachusetts government. He was also being pressured to put more women in positions of power. Tuttman had been an accomplished prosecutor, so it probably seemed likely she’d be a good law-and-order, tough-on-crime, by-the-book judge. That she’d turn out to be a loon (or, if you prefer, just inept — the Boston Globe is excusing her on the basis that “Tuttman was still learning how to master her job on the other side of the bench” two years after taking the job) was something that really couldn’t be predicted.

To me, it shows that both guys are not perfect judges of character. One of the most reliable judge of future actions is past conduct, and neither Kerik nor Tuttman had any huge red flags that would warn of their recent actions.

On the other hand, we have a couple of candidates on the Democratic side whose associations could use a bit of similar scrutiny.

Senator Barack Obama has a squeaky-clean image, but that might be just good PR. It turns out that one of Obama’s bigger supporters (and closer friends) is a fellow named Antoin Rezko — who is one of Chicago’s biggest slumlords and is now under indictment for allegedly ripping off the city for millions of dollars.

But Obama is a rank amateur in this sort of thing. There’s a real professional out there, a master of finding people with not really shady pasts, but downright obsidian. And that would be the current leader of the pack, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-wherever is convenient this week).

One of Hillary’s key foreign policy advisers is Sandy Berger, who served her husband as National Security Advisor. Berger is also a confessed and convicted felon, who stole and destroyed highly-sensitive documents related to the 9/11 attacks from the National Archives. To this day Berger has not offered any satisfactory explanation (or, for that matter, any explanation) for his actions, instead simply accepting any threatened legal sanction and keeping his silence. Indeed, he’s not even complied with those; one of the conditions of his plea bargain was to submit to a polygraph test conducted by the Department of Justice, and he hasn’t done that either.

By an astonishing coincidence, Berger also had to surrender his security clearance. That revocation is set to expire next September — meaning he would be eligible for a job in a Hillary Clinton administration.

Berger’s role is dwarfed, though, by another lawbreaker. Bill Clinton lied under oath in a federal proceeding solely for the benefit of saving his own sorry ass (and screwing over a woman suing him for sexual harassment), and had to surrender his license to practice law over it.

But putting to shame both Berger and Bill Clinton (if either were capable of such a thing) has to be Norman Hsu. Hsu was one of Hillary’s most important fund-raisers, attending events and posing for pictures with her while he was not only a convicted felon, but a wanted fugitive who’d fled the country back in 1992. Hillary’s attempted to redeem herself by offering to refund the donations Hsu bundled for her, but there is still one huge unanswered question that nobody wants to answer:

How the hell did a wanted fugitive get such ready access to a United States Senator, fomer First Lady, and leading presidential candidate, who has Secret Service protection? Did the Secret Service simply not discover Hsu was a wanted man, or did they know it and were they ordered to ignore that and allow him his ready access to the Clintons? Given the choice between saying the Secret Service was that inept, or was bullied, I don’t know which I find more troubling.

Yeah, Giuliani and Romney ought to be a bit ashamed of what happened with those people whom they had entrusted with positions of great responsibility. But at least they had the excuse of “they seemed like fine folks at the time.” Obama and Clinton can’t try that one.

Not that they’d need to. They won’t be questioned anywhere near as closely about Rezko, Berger, or Hsu.

Barbra Streisand is backing Shrillary Clinton
Palestinians protest peace