Security Blanket

For the past few months, Rudy Giuliani has been repeating the same refrain. Some variation of “I’m not a perfect candidate” has become the Giuliani motto. He uses it as a blanket mea culpa to convince conservative voters worried about his social positions that he’s the best they’ve got. It seems to be an effective hedge—Pat Robertson’s recent endorsement is just the latest sign that religious leaders are willing to place Rudy’s terrorism toughness ahead of his conservative drawbacks.  

The refrain appeared again this week after Rudy’s former driver, police chief, and business partner, Bernard Kerik, was indicted on conspiracy charges. Giuliani had lobbied for Kerik to become the next secretary of Homeland Security in 2004, a bid that ended in Kerik’s disgraceful withdrawal . Today’s New York Times story ends with Rudy’s trotting out of the old standby: “I am not running as the perfect candidate.”

Prior to this week, Giuliani has used the phrase to imply that he’s imperfect in his personal life but that he is strong where it really matters: in the fight against terrorism. But this time, the imperfection is security-related. If Giuliani once trusted Kerik enough to put him in charge of the entire country’s security, then whom else will he mistakenly trust if he’s president? The ghosts of Michael Brown and Donald Rumsfeld loom large. 

Two of Giuliani’s rivals were quick to attack. John McCain said Giuliani shouldn’t have trusted Kerik after his disappointing stint training Iraqi police forces in Baghdad. Mitt Romney’s campaign sent a memo to reporters trumpeting Romney’s commitment to a clean government.

But Kerik’s indictment could actually hurt Giuliani most if he ends up as the nominee. The corruption trial may take place during the heart of the general election’s campaign season. There’s even an outside chance that Giuliani may have to testify. For Giuliani, that’s an imperfect scenario.