by Rick Pearson
AMES, Iowa—Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani acknowledged today that he made a mistake in not looking deeper into the background of a man he once touted for national homeland security chief who is now facing federal indictment.
Bernard Kerik, who served as the police commissioner under the Republican presidential contender, has been the subject of a criminal grand jury investigation into allegations of tax evasion and corruption and a decision is expected soon.
Giuliani, campaigning in Dubuque, told ABC News that he had made more correct decisions than wrong ones during his tenure as mayor.
"I must have been making the right decisions if the city of New York turned around. If crime went down by 60 percent, if homicide went down by 70 percent," the network quoted Giuliani as saying.
"I made mistakes when I was the mayor and I make mistakes as a candidate. I will make mistakes as a president," Giuliani said.
Giuliani recommended to President Bush that Kerik head the Department of Homeland Security in 2004. But amid questions about his background, he withdrew his nomination.
Giuliani also has testified before a state grand jury investigation of Kerik. As a result of that probe, Kerik plead guilty to accepting illegal gifts while working for the city.
Kerik's legal problems could become potentially risky for Giuliani's candidacy. Leading in the natonal polls, Giuliani's campaign has been built around the central theme of promoting national security based on his role as New York mayor following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
Despite his overall lead among Republicans nationally, Giuliani has made scant appearances in Iowa, home of the nation's first presidential caucuses, and trails former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in state polls.
Speaking to a group of several hundred people later Thursday at the student union at Iowa State University, Giuliani did not touch on the Kerik issue but promoted a candidacy that was focused on staying on the "offense against Islamic terrorists."
"We are safer when we are on offense and we are at great danger when we are on defense," Giuliani said during a near hour-long town hall-style meeting.
In addition to calling for a reduction in federal taxes and spending, Giuliani also promoted the need for increasing the size of the military, not only to deal with terrorism threats but to "deter would be aggressors."
Giuliani said the "peace dividend was a crucial mistake" after the Cold War, with demilitarization replayed several times in American history following times of war. He termed the phrase "peace divident" as "happy talk" and said, "Happy talk by leaders is very dangerous."