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Bush’s Best and Brightest

When it comes to choosing people to serve the country, occasionally Mr. Bush gets lucky. Although repeatedly letting everyone know how much he likes Messrs. Gonzales and Wolfowitz, secretly Mr. Bush probably looks back gratefully at the quiet departure of Eric Keroack and the non-appointment of Bernard Kerick.

Dr. Keroack was appointed head of the U.S. Office of Population Affairs shortly after the 2006 elections. He left about Easter time. According to the office’s webpage, the Office of Population Affairs “collects, develops, and distributes information on family planning, adolescent pregnancy, abstinence, adoption, reproductive health care, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS.” It was a bit of a puzzle as to why Dr. Keroack was appointed since in his non-governmental life he headed an organization called “A Woman’s Concern”. One of the things that organization opposes is contraception because, it explains, contraception “increases out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion rates”, an interesting if not widely accepted view. The good news about the Keroack presence in the administration is that it is no more. Dr. Keroack went quietly into the night. It was not because he opposes abortion and contraception. He was opposed to certain medical ethics rules.

At the time of his departure the Massachusetts Medicaid Office was conducting an investigation into his private practice. Disclosure of the Medicaid office investigation came after Dr. Keroack had received two formal warnings from the Massachusetts board of medicine ordering him to quit handing out drugs to people who were not his patients. Dr. Keroack had a patient who had no insurance and lacked the money to buy drugs. He helped her by issuing the prescription to the patient’s daughter who had insurance. The daughter then obtained the medication under her own name at her insurance company’s expense and gave it to her mother. The board of medicine said that doctors are not supposed to prescribe medicine for non-patients. Dr. Keroack said what he did was like “killing two birds with [one] stone”. He could have said it was like creating a jailbird out of a fraud. He admitted that he had switched prescriptions but, in his formal response to the board, said that charges of insurance fraud and distributing medication to nonpatients were “patently false”. Following the lead of Alberto Gonzales, he will be able to reconcile those statements with the facts to which he’s admitted when he appears before the board.

The board complaint is separate from the investigation by the Medicaid office in Massachusetts and it has not yet said why it is investigating the doctor. The combination of the foregoing probably helps explain why Dr. Keroack quietly resigned and returned to Massachusetts where he can continue to promote unprotected sex as a means of avoiding pregnancy.

If Dr. Keroack was a bad appointment, Bernard Kerick was a disastrous choice to head the department of Homeland Security. When nominating Mr. Kerik Mr. Bush called him “one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in America. In every position he has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, a heart for the innocent and a record of great success. I’m grateful he’s agreed to bring his lifetime of security experience and skill to one of the most important positions in the federal government.” The good news with him, however, was that he did not get the job for which he was nominated notwithstanding Mr. Bush’s enthusiastic support. News of early April demonstrated why that was an even happier circumstance than first thought.

Although Attorney General Alberto Gonzales personally vetted Mr. Kerik he failed to uncover aspects of Mr. Kerik’s past life that when exposed to the light of day caused Mr. Bush to withdraw the nomination. It included such things as being given a $165,000 home remodeling job as a gift from a New Jersey family that allegedly had Mafia ties and using a donated apartment near ground zero assigned to ground zero police and rescue workers during the days after 9/11, for trysts with his paramour.

Mr. Bush was lucky. According to the Washington Post, in April 2007 it was disclosed that Federal prosecutors have told Mr. Kerik he will probably be charged with an assortment of felonies including giving false information to the government when he was nominated. If Mr. Bush hadn’t gotten lucky in 2004, today he would be explaining why Mr. Kerik retains his full confidence even though he is soon to be indicted. That would be as embarrassing as his continued support for Alberto Gonzales. Having to publicly support two people who should no longer hold the jobs he gave them, and one who may be proved a crook, might be an embarrassment even for a president who believes that the king can do no wrong.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. Visit his website: http://hraos.com/
 

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