Here are the GOP contenders who refuse to say that Obama loves America

Last Wednesday, at a Manhattan fundraiser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani told a gathering of professional rich people that he doesn’t believe President Obama loves America, and that he “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up.” He then spent the rest of the week doubling down on his assertions, adding on Friday that Obama had been influenced by communists since age 9.

Maybe it was the level of certainty with which he said it, and maybe it had something to do with him standing next to a soon-to-be presidential candidate, but Giuliani’s comments finally crossed the line for American political journalists. After six years of unending claims by prominent Republican elected officials and surrogates that President Obama is a Kenyan, Indonesian, Marxist, Muslim, atheist, elitist, unpatriotic and generally out-group figure — claims that were, for the most part, either ignored or laughed off by both the Administration and the political press — Giuliani’s comments finally drew some followup.

It hasn’t been pretty. While the press more or less assumed that Giuliani’s comments were especially awful and extreme — it shouldn’t be that hard to disavow his comments and say that the President of the United States loves his country — almost none of the likely Republican 2016 candidates have fully admitted that President Obama does, in fact, love America.

Here’s how each of them handled Giuliani’s comments:

Scott Walker repeatedly took the “I’m not a scientist” position on Obama’s love of country, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday that he would let President Obama “speak for himself” and telling the Associated Press on Saturday that “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know” whether the President loves America.

Walker compounded his ignorance on Saturday by further adding that he didn’t know if Obama was a Christian because he had never heard the President say he was — odd, considering how often Obama’s Christian faith is in the news.

Lindsey Graham played the non-psychologist to Walker’s non-scientist, saying, “I am not Dr. Phil. I don’t know how to look into somebody’s eyes and find out what their soul’s up to,” before qualifying his statement by saying that he doesn’t “question [the president’s] patriotism or love for our country.”

Of course, starting that statement by saying that it’s impossible to know what Obama’s “soul’s up to” sounds an awful lot like Mitch McConnell saying that he takes President Obama at his word that he wasn’t a Muslim, so I guess we’ll just have to take Graham at his word that he doesn’t question Obama’s patriotism.

Rand Paul took some time to figure out whether he had a comment on Giuliani’s remarks, first telling TalkingPointsMemo that he didn’t have a comment before telling a Kentucky news station that “it’s a mistake to question people’s motives.” So even if Paul doesn’t believe that Obama loves America, he’s not about to say so in public. Clearly, that’d be a mistake.

Jeb Bush picked up on Rand Paul’s messaging, saying through a spokesperson that he, too, “doesn’t question President Obama’s motives.”

Bobby Jindal released an official statement from his executive office entitled “Gov. Jindal Refuses to Condemn Mayor Giuliani,” and told Time that the former mayor of New York “should have chosen different phraseology for his remarks,” but that the “gist of what Mayor Giuliani said…is true.”

Ted Cruz’s office declined to comment on whether President Obama loves America.

Rick Perry has yet to weight in on this particular round of Obama’s love for America, but the topic did come up during his last run for President. At a campaign event in Iowa in 2011, when asked by a reporter if his comments about voters needing a president who’s “in love with America” meant that President Obama, by contrast, didn’t, Perry responded by saying, “You need to ask him.”

Ben Carson hasn’t commented on this particular controversy, but he probably doesn’t have to. Last Monday, he told Newsmax that if Obama vetoes funding of the Department of Homeland Security if it includes a reversal of his recent executive actions on immigration, it will be time to start talking about “treason.”

Mike Huckabee has yet to weigh in on Obama’s love for America, but earlier in the month openly attacked what he considered Obama’s disdain for Christians and Jews in Israel, noting that Muslims are the “one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support.”

Marco Rubio remains the only likely Republican presidential candidate so far to use the word “love” to describe President Obama’s feelings toward America, giving the following statement to a local TV station:

I don’t feel like I’m in a position to have to answer for every person in my party that makes a claim. Democrats aren’t asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don’t know why I should answer every time a Republican does. I’ll suffice it to say that I believe the President loves America; I think his ideas are bad.

Rubio is right in saying that it seems a bit silly that we feel the need to ask every Republican candidate how they feel about something unequivocally awful that a racist, draft-dodging buffoon said. But of course, every time the Republican field refuses to fully disavow the unequivocally awful things that racist, draft-dodging buffoons say, the more legitimate these questions become.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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