I never liked the "character" issue's rude interference into American politics. Other than it usually being just plain rude, I never liked its cast-the-first-stone quality, either. But I chiefly dislike character's interference for the simple reason that it's commonly raised by political thugs who intend it as an irrelevant distraction from what actually matters -- that being the targeted character's policy positions.
Whatever Thomas Jefferson did or didn't do with a certain Sally at night had nothing to do with whether or not he might be inclined to unilaterally double the size of the United States; "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa" hardly addressed how Grover Cleveland might confront a deep economic depression, which he eventually did (poorly); and Bill Clinton's advertised dalliances were, of course, about anything and everything but his fiscal and foreign policies, two little items that normally influence this nation more than the particular lovemaking techniques of a bimbo from California.
Yet each of the above had his enemies and each of the above's enemies dwelled on the personal. The personal may have been titillating, and it may have aroused the wrath of the moralistically motivated, but it had nothing to do with the nation's business. And our business is, simply, what it's all about. Give me the William James School of Pragmatism kind of politics any day over any Freudian interest in a president's metaphorical thoughts on cigars. Who cares.
But every now and then comes a candidate with a personal history that rocks even the most pragmatically inclined. And Hizzoner Giuliani is one such candidate.
"Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani acknowledged again Friday that he made a mistake when he recommended Bernard Kerik to be the nation's homeland security chief," understated the New York Times on Rudy's understatement.
"The acknowledgment followed a report ... that the former New York City mayor was warned about Kerik's relationship with a company with suspected ties to organized crime even before Giuliani appointed Kerik as New York City police commissioner."
A mistake? No. A mistake is forgetting to tell your wife you'll be late for dinner. A mistake is misfiling your car insurance bill. A mistake is inattentively showing up for a 10AM dentist appointment at 11AM. The parameters of "mistake," however, most decidedly do not encompass your naming a mobbed-up character as police commissioner, then compounding said ill-defined mistake by recommending said mobster to be the nation's top security guy.
No, that sort of thing transcends mere "mistaken-ness." Indeed, it's that sort of thing that gives "mistake" a good name. So let us not conspire with Rudy "Boo-Boo," as his mob buddies might nickname him to great amusement, in abusing "mistake" by agreeing that his actions were anything but outright dishonest, shady, unscrupulous, fraudulent and borderline racketeering.
Now that's personal -- and for once, utterly relevant. Those adjectives may say nothing about what Rudy might do about taxes or Iraq, but they say a lot about Rudy the administrator, the executive, the man.