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Bye Bye Bernie

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Bernie Kerik's guilty plea was a tragedy for the former police commissioner and his family. Kerik has been destroyed as a public figure for some time now, and there's a temptation to just let the man go off to the slammer in peace.

But there is still the matter of Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani is still a public figure, one who is currently flirting with the idea of a gubernatorial run. And the finale of the Kerik story is an important reminder that in the annals of major American politicians who pick dreadful top aides, Rudy is right up there with Warren Harding.

Giuliani's first police commissioner was William Bratton, who was a stunning success at the job, a fact that actually seemed to alienate the mayor. The fact that Giuliani got rid of Bratton -- who later went on to run the LAPD -- was one of the first definitive signs that Rudy's ideal underlings were men who were way, way under.

Such a man was Bernie Kerik, a high school dropout who had an absolutely meteoric rise to fame and fortune under Giuliani. He went from being Rudy's bodyguard and chauffeur to corrections commissioner to police commissioner to nominee for head of the Department of Homeland Security. Hanging tight to his boss's coattails, Kerik was so far in over his head he was a human barnacle.

On 9/11, when Giuliani was transformed from failed pol to America's mayor, Kerik distinguished himself by sticking tightly to his boss's side. Instead of running the Police Department at this moment of crisis, Kerik reverted to his role of bodyguard.

And in the months after the terrorist attack, Kerik combined business with pleasure by pursuing an extramarital affair with publisher Judith Regan in a luxury apartment that overlooked Ground Zero.

Championing Kerik for head of Homeland Security -- even just allowing him to keep his hat in the ring -- was very possibly the dumbest and most irresponsible decision of Giuliani's career.

In the end, Bernard Kerik was a small man who took a small fall. The charges to which he pleaded guilty stem from his decision to accept $250,000 in apartment renovations from a construction company with suspected mob ties. (For some reason, home improvements have always been wildly popular with corrupt public officials.)

If Giuliani does decide to run for governor, New Yorkers are going to have to ask themselves: If this is the kind of person Rudy regards as a good potential head of the nation's massive homeland security operation, imagine who he would think was up to running the state police or, heaven help us, the highway program.