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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 13, 2004 07:52 AM

I find it annoying that Bernard Kerik is getting praised in some quarters for “coming clean” and “accepting responsibility” for his “mistake.” From all accounts, including Kerik’s own, President Bush’s aides asked him upfront about the nanny question several times during the vetting process and he did not come clean.

Kerik didn’t just make some minor clerical error. He misled the White House. So, stop making him a martyr.

It’s also interesting that some political observers on both the left and right are pooh-poohing the illegal alien nanny issue. I heard Geraldo Rivera ask Rudy Giuliani during a press conference yesterday why Kerik was in trouble over a “de minimis” issue. A number of other commentators on the Sunday shows echoed that sentiment. And John Podhoretz says Rudy Giuliani, who pushed the Kerik nomination, won’t suffer any blowback.

I disagree. I think the fiasco substantially damages Rudy Giuliani’s reputation as a homeland security leader (and 2008 presidential nominee)–not only because of his sloppy vetting of Kerik, but also because Giuliani’s own laxity on immigration (more here on his open-borders record ) will be difficult to ignore as a result of the Kerik taint.

A few other thoughts on Bernard Kerik’s withdrawal :

First, it puts an end to feminist complaints that only women nominees are penalized for having “nanny problems.”

Second, it keeps a white-hot spotlight on many of the issues raised by maverick House Republicans during the “intel reform”/border security debate, including the push for secure documentation, improved employer verification of Social Security numbers, and strengthening of penalties for immigration-related fraud.

Third, it puts a much-needed focus on the need to enforce federal employer sanctions. Why is it that the only employers who ever seem to suffer consequences for hiring illegal immigrants are Cabinet nominees?! In 2002, the federal government fined only 13 employers nationwide for hiring illegal immigrants. Enforcement of employer sanctions has been a nationwide joke for the last two decades.

And fourth, unfortunately, it virtually kills the prospects of getting someone with real homeland security enforcement experience to head DHS. According to the Washington Post, the short list of replacements includes:

* White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, a Justice Department bureaucrat who was former AG Janet Reno’s “most trusted adviser.”

* White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joseph Hagin, former personal aide and “appointments secretary” to the first President Bush and a spokesman for Chiquita Brands.

* Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for transportation and border security at Homeland Security, has been undermining the authority and morale of BP and ICE agents since the summer.

* Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and insurance executive.

A Clinton-era careerist. A banana company flack. An out-of-touch bureaucrat. And an insurance salesman. Bewilderingly, some are also floating Sen. Joe Lieberman’s name. None of these choices will inspire much confidence among rank-and-file enforcement officers at DHS.

My dream pick: Peter Nunez, former United States Attorney, Southern District of California (1982-1988), former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1990-1993) overseeing all law enforcement components of the Treasury Department including Customs and BATF, lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Nunez has been in the trenches, has demonstrated his ability and determination to enforce our immigration laws, and has worked with law enforcement officials and agencies on both the northern and southern borders. He gets it. Here’s an excerpt from Nunez’s congressional testimony in February 2004 on preventing the entry of terrorists into the United States:

This country must remember that it is based upon the concept of the rule of law. We are a nation of laws – we must abide by the laws we have adopted to deal with the problems of immigration, drugs, and terrorism. It is not enough to pass laws in Congress or in the state legislatures and then ignore them because we are afraid of offending special interests or because of notions of political correctness. And there is no way a country can fight a war against terrorism when it ignores its borders, refuses to enforce its laws away from the borders, and provides sanctuary or informal immunity to those who have broken our laws by coming here illegally or staying beyond their welcome.

Update: Captain Ed notes all the other dirty stuff in Kerik’s laundry bag.