Rudy Giuliani, Obama’s patriotism, and a familiar GOP meme

On Wednesday night, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani spoke at a Manhattan fundraiser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is gearing up for a presidential campaign, and proved that he is about as good a surrogate as he was a presidential candidate.

Speaking to about 60 conservative businessmen and media professionals, Giuliani had this to say about our current Commander-in-Chief:

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

As Wayne Barrett at the New York Daily News was quick to point out, that’s a pretty bold statement for a draft-dodger whose father got out of World War II by reminding the authorities of a felony conviction he had received under an alias.

Faced with mounting criticism on Thursday morning, Giuliani scrambled over to Fox & Friends to explain himself:

I’m not questioning his patriotism; he’s a patriot, I’m sure. What I’m saying is in his rhetoric, I’ve rarely heard him say the things I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents…it sounds like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter.

As ridiculous and contradictory as that is — the President doesn’t love America, but sure, he’s a patriot — that may be the closest we get to contrition from him. He spent the rest of the day on Fox News, doubling down on his comments and refusing to apologize for his assertion that President Obama isn’t the brightest star on the flag, if you catch his drift.

Giuliani also wants you to know that his comments weren’t racist, telling  The New York Times:

Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people.

Of course. Why should we think that telling a room full of white people that our first black president “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up” has anything to do with race? Because he isn’t black in the first place! We’re obviously the real racists for thinking, even for a second, that he meant otherwise.

I think the lesson we can all learn from this is that the right wing version of Obama’s upbringing depends largely on the time of day it is being discussed. In the evenings, Obama was raised in Kenya and Indonesia, where he became a secret Muslim who remains hell-bent on destroying America from within. But during the day, Obama was raised in Chicago, where he was indoctrinated into radical socialism by liberal elites like Saul Alinsky and Bill Ayers, and remains hell-bent on undermining American legitimacy by refusing to put our boots in the appropriate asses.

I know I’m supposed to be mad, but I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Giuliani here. After all, rhetoric like that has been totally acceptable in mainstream GOP circles since before President Obama even took office. On the Right, President Obama has never been a patriot, he has never loved our country and he certainly wasn’t brought up like the rest of us — you know, the rest of us wholesome, patriotic (white) people.

Seriously, we’re coming off of the heels of a presidential campaign where Mitt Romney tried out a racist campaign slogan (Obama Isn’t Working) before settling on one that questioned our president’s patriotism (Believe in America).

John McCain's suggestively patriotic slogan

John McCain’s suggestively patriotic 2008 slogan

And he wouldn’t have considered using them out had it not been for four years of endorsement from conservative politicians, journalists and intellectuals. Ever since he started thinking about running for national office, President Obama has endured overt attacks concerning his birth, his religion, his upbringing and, above all, his patriotism — not just from the fringes, but from conservative elected officials and thought leaders.

In that context, how was Rudy supposed to know that people were going to take offense at this particular jab at Obama’s upbringing and patriotism? If literally hundreds of politicians and commentators have gotten away with rhetoric like that before, how was Giuliani supposed to know that he wasn’t supposed to say those things out loud?

Within the GOP, especially at fundraisers, there are no longer any social or cultural norms restricting surrogates and candidates from saying things about our president that would have drawn cries of treason in 2006. Rudy Guiliani is just an example of that problem; he isn’t the problem itself.

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, Scott Walker refused to say whether President Obama is a patriot who loves our country when he was asked about Mayor Giuliani’s comments, saying that both the former mayor and current president could speak for themselves:


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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36 Responses to “Rudy Giuliani, Obama’s patriotism, and a familiar GOP meme”

  1. Demosthenes says:

    Mr. Giuliani’s statement is outrageous and deserves every bit of the condemnation he is getting. One can hate a president’s policies, but th constant personalized vilifying is utterly noxious.

  2. rmthunter says:

    They’ll ignore the Mexican wife and Canadian birth. And so will the media.

    Of course, that sort of thing is only important to their base.

  3. rmthunter says:

    Your Democratic storefront in Texas made me laugh. I live in Chicago — I don’t recall seeing an office for a Republican anything in years. We have a city election tomorrow — I’m looking forward to finding out if there are any Republicans on the ballot, because I haven’t heard a peep from any.

  4. rmthunter says:

    This is the sort of thing that’s been coming from Alan Keyes, Rush Limbaugh, and other fringe elements (and no matter how Republican politicians fear Rush, most people recognize him as fringe) for a while. And it’s old BS, which smells just as bad as fresh BS. Giuliani’s mainstreaming it, and the reaction is, not unexpectedly, negative. He’s just marked himself as the establishment’s answer to Sarah Palin.

    As for Walker, he’s obviously a coward — he’s dodged this issue, questions on evolution, whether he thinks Obama’s a Christian, and everything else.

    Of course, that’s become the standard Republican tactic: We have a plan, but it’s “sekrit.”

  5. Houndentenor says:

    Agreed. I think that’s an uphill battle though as it requires a constitutional amendment and there are plenty of states whose citizens would feel they would lose out on what little importance they have if they went to popular vote only. But the current situation in which only the voters in about 8 states actually matter in choosing the president is insane. There’s hardly any campaigning in Delaware, Vermont and North Dakota anyway.

  6. emjayay says:

    Or this one. Hope I added something.

  7. emjayay says:

    I hadn’t seen this when I posted a related comment above.

  8. emjayay says:

    It’s way beyond time to dump the 1700’s Electoral College concept and go to national popular elections. If we can do California and New York etc. we can do the country that way.

  9. emjayay says:

    What Giuliani is saying is that Obama did not grow up in Brooklyn in a Catholic family with immigrant grandparents from Italy. Besides being an authoritarian anyway, he has the kind of heritage that tends to be rather persistent. These are the people who brought us the Mafia. From a Newsweek article from 2007 (thank you internet, and this is good stuff!):

    “Giuliani was born into an immigrant enclave—mostly Italian-American, some Jewish—in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of looming dark churches and rows of modest brick and brownstone houses, far from the Manhattan skyline. Four of Giuliani’s uncles were, indeed, policemen, as were four of his cousins. But another uncle was Leo D’Avanzo, a loan shark and a bookie with mob connections, who operated out of a bar named after another uncle—Vincent D’Avanzo, a policeman who acted as a frontman for the bar. Rudy’s cousin, Leo’s son Lewis (a.k.a. “Steve the Blond”), was a ruthless hood who later did time for armed hijacking and selling stolen cars.”

    Get the picture?

    Obama grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii. Not exactly East Flatbush. His stepfather for four years of his young life was Indonesian. His mother became an anthropologist – someone who is professionally dedicated to documenting and being non-judgmental about other cultures. His grandparents were Kansans. Hawaii was mostly people with Filipino, Polynesian, Japanese, and followed by every one else backgrounds.

  10. Don Chandler says:

    It’s very typical of fox or gop to say something stupid to simply put it in the minds of voters that so and so don’t love america or what have you. Besides, fox and the gop are preaching to the converted, they have won these minds and they want to keep them. That’s how they do it: impugn through dubious suggestion.

  11. AlexanderHamiltonsGhost says:

    It’s Al Franken’s thing: conservatives love America like a child loves mommy, whereas progressives love it as one loves a spouse – seeing all the faults, working to improve them together.

  12. MoonDragon says:

    Enablers always claim to love the one whose behavior is problematic. When the behavior involves codependency, the enabler will badmouth anyone who threatens the relationship with reality, no matter how small the reality dose may be.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    That makes me think of the song Particle Man: “When he’s underwater does he get wet? Or does the water get him instead?” When two piles of subhuman, bigot filth collide, which is really stepping in which?

  14. goulo says:

    This Republican meme that loving a country (or anything else) means you can’t criticize its faults is so idiotic.

    People who really love something want to improve it, not just praise it.

  15. BeccaM says:

    Sometimes the racist dog whistle becomes obvious and audible for everybody to hear.

    Also, as the Rude Pundit points out, Google is a bountiful bastard: http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-brief-note-on-rudy-giulianis-mad-rant.html

  16. Houndentenor says:

    I had lunch yesterday in a quaint, funky little town in East Texas and I actually saw a storefront for the local Democratic party. I was quite pleased to see that because in most of the state, especially outside of the largest cities, the Democrats don’t seem to even try. Obviously there are states where they stand a better change. Losing states like Wisconsin is disgraceful and shouldn’t be happening but does because Democrats SUCK at messaging. When you see polling that shows that people like Democrats’ ideas and platform positions until they have the Democratic Party attached to them, you see what I mean. it needs to happen at the grassroots with local people speaking to their neighbors rather than some national campaign. Conservatives have understood this for decades and I can only attribute the Democrats’ reluctance/failure to use this model as either arrogance or elitism.

  17. Proud Liberal says:

    I saw on a program last night that Democrats have started a ground effort in states to take back legislatures. They have to!

  18. 2karmanot says:

    Let just hope he ‘runs’

  19. 2karmanot says:

    Poor little toad—has been desperate for attention and relevance: Benghazi, Benghazi, 9/11, 9/11, Kenya, Kenya, Obama, Obama, baruppp, baruppp, hop, hop

  20. Houndentenor says:

    Much of that is due to gerrymandering. I won’t say that Republicans can’t win national elections, but the deck is stacked against them at this point. They now have to pick up all the “swing states” in order to win which is a tall order for either party at any time in history. Meanwhile, because the rural areas tend to be red and the cities blue it is hard for Democrats to get enough voters in some states that are less urban and the districts that are not part of a major city. It is hard for Democrats to retake the House (even in years like 2012 when more voters cast a ballot for a Democrat in Congressional elections overall than they did for Republicans) in the same way that it’s hard for Republicans to get enough votes in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida and the rest to win.

  21. Houndentenor says:

    Also true. Media were often biased and micro-targeted in the past. Most cities of any size and multiple newpapers before about the time radio appeared. You could choose to read the liberal paper, the conservative paper, the labor-oriented paper, etc. With the advent of a national media (radio and then television) we had a brief window during which news reporters were expected to appear fair and unbiased. We are now back to the pre-radio era in which you can select the media which will give you the account of current events from your own point of view.

  22. Houndentenor says:

    The current problem is that the people most likely to use the internet and social media are also the least likely to show up at the polls.

  23. Proud Liberal says:

    Sigh. I’m afraid you are right. I still think Republicans can’t win national elections anymore. They will win local elections based on their rhetoric, but not national ones, unless they keep trying to change the rules to suit them.

  24. emjayay says:

    Well obviously the other side of it is that social media/internet has also spread all the reactionary lies and hate and outrage universally in a second, backed up by that new trad media propaganda outlet, Fox News. No need to go to a John Birch Society meeting and pick up some literature.

  25. Bill_Perdue says:

    Republicans say bad things about Democrats. Yawn.

    Democrats say bad things about Republicans. Yawn.

  26. Badgerite says:

    Governor “leadership” strikes again.

  27. Proud Liberal says:

    Social media has changed national elections forever. People won’t tolerate ignorance and hate. One day, the Republicans will understand this but until then, I will watch and laugh at them.

  28. Proud Liberal says:

    Exactly. They live in this bubble of malcontent and refuse to see the real world as it is.

  29. Houndentenor says:

    They really can’t understand why the rest of the country doesn’t hate Obama as much as they do. I hear this from relatives all the time. They couldn’t believe I was going to vote for him again in 2012.

  30. Houndentenor says:

    Nixon once said that Republicans should run to the right in the primaries and then back to the center in the general election. That was an effective strategy and served GOP candidates well up until the creation of youtube and similar sites. Now, anything you said can come back to haunt you. We thankfully no longer have to rely on the lazy and incompetent mainstream media to juxtapose this week’s comments with last month’s. Anyone can post that and a few bloggers and tweeters can make that video go viral and you’re screwed. Politicians, many of whom are too old and out of touch to understand the new media culture, have still not clued in to this.

    Also, you’d think a politician from an ethnic minority often demonized in the popular culture ( Italian American politicians are almost always accused of having mafia connections even when there’s no evidence of such.) would be eager to avoid this kind of approach. But no. Of course no one ever accused Giuliani of being fair or ethical.

  31. rumsey says:

    Both Giuliani’s father and uncle were part of the Mob. So he had a very patriotic, All-Italian-American up-bringing. Back when being Italian bordered on being “colored.”

    The President, among his other bonafides, was brought up by his white grandparents — both grandfather and grandmother. Why Mayor 9/11 forgot about her is anyone’s guess.

    That the President is more clear-eyed about America and less of a cheerleader is all these slimy GOP shills need to imply any and all kinds of treason and “otherness” to him.

    Why do they bother? He’ll be gone in less than two years. They should save their firepower for ’16,
    for which it appears they have no viable candidate. JEB married a Mexican. Cruz was born in Canada, with an unAmerican Cuban influence on his upbringing. What will they say about that?

  32. JaneE says:

    Yeah. The president wasn’t brought up the way regular Americans were because he was raised by white people just like regular Americans, or at least a majority of them.

    It is probably true that he wasn’t raised to be intolerant. That would be different. He was allowed to make his own choice about what religion to be. That would be different. He was raised to be rational, reasonable and aware of nuance. That would be different. He was raised to have empathy. That would be different. He was raised to believe that a black man could become president of the US. That would have been really different, back then.

  33. Proud Liberal says:

    All of the criticism coming from the right is because of pure jealousy. They can’t beat President Obama so they deride and criticize him. It says a lot more about them than President Obama.

  34. nicho says:

    And Huckabee just stepped in a pile of Giuliani.

  35. therling says:

    Man, that Giuliani is so full of “huckabee.” (Yes, we should do for Mike Huckabee what was done for “Santorum.”

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