HE'S GOOD PEOPLE, THAT BERNIE.

Let's say you want to renovate your house, but you don't have the quarter million dollars it's going to cost lying around. What do you do? Get a home equity loan? Pshaw - that's for little people. Me, I get an Israeli billionaire defense contractor to give the money to a Brooklyn marble salesman, who then cuts me a check. That's what I do.

Or at least that's what you do if you're Bernie Kerik. Lots of people probably missed this latest revelation in the saga of Kerik, Rudy Giuliani's erstwhile right hand man, coming as it did over the holiday. But as the New York Times reported on Saturday, the money started with one Eitan Wertheimer, an Israeli industrialist "whose family’s vast holdings include companies with United States Defense Department contracts." Wertheimer gave the money to Shimon Cohen, described by the Times as "a marble and stone merchant who has been a friend of Mr. Kerik’s for several years."

This all happened in 2003. Then two years ago, city investigators looking into Kerik's finances find out about the money and interview Cohen, who tells them "that in handing the money over, he had not discussed any interest with Mr. Kerik nor set any timetable for repayment." What's a quarter mil between friends? You pay it back, you don't pay it back, whatever. Then nine days after the investigators interview Cohen, by an amazing coincidence, Kerik gives him back the money, with interest.

I've noticed that when he's questioned about Kerik, Giuliani tends to wax philosophical. How much do you really know people, he'll say. Everyone has some good and some bad in them, and Bernie did a lot of good. And so on. It's a very clever technique to shift the discussion away from the specifics, as in, exactly what about Kerik made you think that he would be a good pick to run the Department of Homeland Security?

Let me make a bold prediction: this won't be the last bit of Kerik's corruption we hear about.

--Paul Waldman

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