Probably much to Jeanine Pirro’s relief, Bernie Kerik got about as far away from her foundering attorney-general candidacy as possible last week: all the way to Iraq. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, was making his first visit since 2003, when he took a leave from Giuliani Partners to help rebuild Iraq’s police force. Back then, he was known as the “Baghdad Terminator,” and shortly thereafter President Bush nominated him (briefly) to head Homeland Security. Then Kerik’s bad luck started: After he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for failure to disclose gifts, a recording of Pirro urging Kerik to bug her husband Al’s boat came out. (She wanted to know if he was having an affair.) Al, not one to lie still, hinted at more. “I have wondered why she would invest so much confidence in a personal relationship with Bernie when she had so many options of people she could speak to, including me,” he said. “I know of numerous times they’ve had lunches and dinners together. They’re very close friends.”
“I can’t comment,” Kerik said when contacted about the bugging talk, now under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office. But in private he’s been expansive. “I was extremely strong,” he told a friend. “I didn’t want to be involved in that. Number one, it’s none of my fucking business, and two, confront him, call him in, tell him. Don’t go down that other road. But this fucking woman was upset, and I guess in her own mind, if she was going to confront him, she wanted proof.” He’s also apparently rankled by Al’s suspicion of his relationship with Jeanine. “Al’s full of shit,” Kerik complained to a friend. “That’s a way for him to fucking send people in the wrong direction. There’s nothing between us, never, nothing.”
Last week, Kerik put his contentious role in the campaign behind him for the more welcoming world of international terrorism, sneaking into Iraq for two days (ducking the media). There, it was as if the glory days were back. Vintage Kerik was on display: hulking, crisply dressed, a meeting with the minister of the interior. “A lot of it has to do with international funding for some of their national-security programs,” said Kerik when asked about the mission, which was unofficial. “There’s some things I may be able to do for them.” Kerik saw how dangerous Iraq had become in his absence. “About 50 percent of the Iraqi staff that I had in Baghdad are dead,” he said in an interview. That’s out of around 400. Kerik relishes spending a week or two a month in Oman or Kuwait. “Everybody in this country should be doing everything in their power to make sure 9/11 doesn’t happen again,” he said, and he also gets to clear his head of his home-base travails. “You try to put everything else out so you can do your job and stay safe, and that’s it,” he said.