Rudy’s Heresy

Obama with-United-States-Flag

Hot on the heels of the Ethics Alarms Presidents Day celebration of the men who have held the office, which began with the premise that every one of them made a patriotic decision to attempt such a daunting job and deserves our respect and gratitude, comes Rudy Giuliani to accuse the current occupant of the office of not loving the United States of America. His accusation came not in a national address or an interview with CNN, mind you, but at a small, private dinner for nascent GOP Presidential hopeful Scott Walker. This sparked an over-the-top freakout by the mainstream media, which did everything from questioning Giuliani’s patriotism and sanity to accusing him of racism (but of course).

Then, because we all know Giuliani, who is neither a leader of the Republican Party nor currently an elected official, speaks for all Republicans, every Presidential contender had to answer the “when did you stop beating your wife” question of whether they also believed that the President didn’t “love” the U.S. Rudy was interviewed and re-interviewed to clarify his remarks, leading him to “explain” that he wasn’t impugning Obama’s patriotism, but would not apologize, and to speculate that Obama’s upbringing and past associations had produced a socialist/communist sensibility. Rudy also said that the President had rejected American “exceptionalism,” and that this was ominous.

Finally, in what was a foolish, unnecessary—but sadly typical for this President—“I am not a crook” moment, Obama felt it was necessary to rebut the former New York Mayor by declaring in a speech that he did love America.

Ick, yuck, uck, petooie, bleh, gag, yechhh.

What an ugly and destructive controversy.

Observations from the ethics perch:

1. Giuliani chose his words badly, and when you intentionally stroll into a metaphorical minefield, incompetent phrasing is irresponsible. Not loving certainly implies a patriotism deficit, as well as the opposite of love, which is hate. What I discern that he was trying to say was that Obama doesn’t much like the culture of the United States as he found it, and as it remains, more or less, despite his stuttering efforts.

2. That doesn’t mean Obama doesn’t love his country and care about it: no man who sets out on a career of public service and then subjects himself to the burdens of the Presidency could hate the country he leads, just as a parent doesn’t hate, but indeed loves, his most disappointing and troublesome child. It is hard to maintain that this isn’t Obama’s true attitude toward the United States. The woman he married has said twice that she was never proud of her country until it elected her husband. He sat for years and listened to his mentor and spiritual leader, Rev. Wright, damn the nation from his pulpit without protesting. He has expressed pointed criticism of the nation’s activities abroad throughout its history, and apologized for them on foreign soil. He doesn’t care for the way the dominant economic system and the one most consistent with the Founders’ ideals distributes wealth, income and power. He does not embrace traditional American ideals of personal accountability and responsibility.

3. Obama’s supporters and followers, many of them, are imbued with the Howard Zinn-Noam Chomsky interpretation of the U.S. as a ruthless, amoral, racist, violent nation that took North America from Native Americans through genocide, and Mexico through immoral warfare, made itself rich by enslaving Africans and has not been a force for good in the world but a force for chaos and subjugation, motivated by self-interest and greed by elite, manipulating hypocrites. Does Obama feel this way too? I wouldn’t bet against it.

4. These beliefs, however, have been gradually mainstreamed by the leftist majority in academia and scholarship for a half a century now. It is both unfair and unrealistic to characterize them as “un-American.” That’s progressivism as it has evolved from Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, FDR. and others, like Zinn and Chomsky, as well as more amiable critics like Robert Reich. Franklin Roosevelt’s Manhattan Club speech that I quoted at length in the recent discussion of Roosevelt’s legacy is more radical than anything Obama has dared to propose. Roosevelt loved America but believed that it was in its best interests and those of its citizens for the nation to undergo an ideological overhaul. For better or worse, the ideas Obama loves are part of his country’s political culture. The fact that Giuliani and Republicans find them repulsive doesn’t make Obama an America-hater. Like FDR 80 years ago, however, he doesn’t like the United States’ predominant culture very much. Anyone who denies that isn’t being honest or is in denial.

5. Returning to the conclusions of my Presidential overview, Giuliani’s follow-up statement that Obama wasn’t raised “like the rest of us” is idiotic and ignorant. Yes, and so what? Very few of the Presidents were raised like typical Americans. These men were all weird…well, maybe not Truman and Ford. Being weird is what made them leaders: their names weren’t pulled out of a hat. Nor were all of them raised to “love America.” To state what should be obvious, it wasn’t until President #8 that we had a President who was even born in the United States. Chester Arthur was born in Canada, and snuck past the Constitutional prohibition of foreign-born Presidents and Vice-Presidents. A large number of them were raised to believe that blacks and women…and Jews…were inherently inferior. A remarkable number of them were raised to believe that they were destined to change the country and the world. Yes, Obama probably feels like a man apart from his fellow citizens because of his mixed culture upbringing, and in that feeling of singularity, he’s a typical, not a-typical, Presidential type.

6. Not believing in American exceptionalism is an elitist, intellectual, politically correct view, not an anti-American one.  A strong argument can be made that the United States is “the greatest country on Earth” on its merits, but love of country is based on emotion, not score-keeping.

7. If Giuliani chose his words carefully, then this is mighty close to the Big Lie tactic, in that it challenges its target to discuss an idea that becomes more plausible the more it is treated as worthy of discussion.

8. In that regard, Obama took the bait. The phrase “Me thinks he doth protest too much” will come to many minds. This is another example of how Obama’s narcissism and thin skin makes him appear defensive and weak. Why should a smear uttered by a Republican political consultant warrant a Presidential response? Obama loves America, but he still doesn’t have a clue about how to be President.

9. The liberal-biased news media’s rush to defend the President once again gives us smoking gun evidence of the double standard employed by it. Did journalists rush to President Bush’s side when Al Gore thundered that he “betrayed” America? Did journalists take Kanye West to task for seizing a national TV spotlight to accuse Bush of intentionally allowing African Americans in New Orleans to suffer? (Kanye West, I would say, had and has more societal influence  at this point than Rudy Giuliani.) Then there’s a junior Senator from Illinois, who was largely unscathed by the media after he said President Bush was “unpatriotic” because he (don’t laugh now!) allowed the national debt to increase so much. If Giuliani’s statement is a week-long story, then these statements should have been. If his accusation is unconscionably disrespectful of “the office,” then so were they.

10. This was not the stupidest or most offensive thing Republicans have said lately, but boy, they have sure been saying a lot of gratuitously stupid things—statements that viscerally involve cognitive dissonance and alienate potential supporters. It may well be that the party has a critical mass of such kamikazes who will once again keep the GOP from inflicting a defeat on the feckless, cynical, Orwellian Democrats that that party richly deserves.

11. Predictably, since this has been the pattern and the strategy of the past six years, many of Obama’s furious supporters in the media and the party are calling Giuliani’s words “racist.” According to the draft Ethics Alarms Race-Baiting Scale, this is a clear #10.,  Manufactured Outrage: Accusations of racism based on criticism of a black public figure for conduct that a white public figure would be and has been criticized for in exactly the same manner.

17 thoughts on “Rudy’s Heresy

  1. I already saw an article posted this morning from the NY Daily News detailing Giuliani’s personal life and his dad and uncles’ less than exemplary lives and sarcastically saying that he knows how to love and what family is all about. This has already reached “neener neener” and “I know you are but what am I?”

  2. Is this really a similar situation to the Donald Sterling’s regarding in private conversations being made public? or does the fact that Sterling was only two people and Giuliani’s was a group meeting make it different?

    Also, is Giuliani really pulling a ‘Madonna style’ PR stunt, as in a has-been is pushing peoples buttons just to stay in the limelight. If so, everyone is taking Giuliani’s bait just like he planned.

    • 1. It is close to the Romney comment, not the Sterling one. Rudy was well out of his bedroom.
      2. But your first point disproves the second proposition. If Giuliani wanted this to be a big deal, he wouldn’t have buried it at a small event.

  3. I really don’t think Obama loves the USA. We are not an exceptional country according to him even though some of us foolishly think so. I believe that he could care less about constitutional guidelines if they get in the way of his agenda. He does like the benefits though of all those golf vacations in Hawaii.

  4. I think some conservatives seem to believe that you can only love something if the love is like a child for its mother; unwavering, and unable to see any flaws, and completely unable to tolerate any else pointing out flaws. If you see flaws or needs for improvements, the love crumbles and goes away completely, never to be sustained or regained.

    This the direct quote of Giuliani: “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.”

    I don’t even know how to approach that. Giuliani, by the way, was speaking not only in front of businessmen, but conservative media as well, so I think any privacy concerns are out of the window. He knew he was being recorded, or at least the possibility was there.

    But taken literally, he seems to be blaming Obama for not loving people in the room. Which would be ridiculous, so I think we can safely say that he did not mean his words to be taken literally. So then what did he mean?

    Well at this point it can spun in any number of ways. First, I think in light of Giuliani’s other recent racially charged remarks, it can be taken in a racial context. “He doesn’t love you (white guy), and he doesn’t love me (white guy). He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up (all white guys) through love of this country (because he’s black).

    I think another interpretation is a not so subtle callback to Obama’s Kenyan background, the “birther” controversy, and his young childhood in Indonesia. Obama doesn’t love America (because he isn’t one), and he doesn’t love you or I, (because we are Americans, and he is not).

    And it may also be a slam against Obama’s mother and grandparents, apparently for not sufficiently instilling him with a love of America and his fellow Americans during his childhood.

    Or a slur against Hawaii, for not being “really American.”

    But t is very difficult to put a good spin on it, which Giuliani himself acknowledged before he made the statement. Which is all the more reason he shouldn’t have made it.

    • I agree that it was stupid statement.

      Any reference to Obama’s cultural background can’t possibly be termed racist. He has an unusual background, he is not steeped in traditional American traditions and attitudes, saying so isn’t racist (Obama’s books say so), and I wonder how you and others who have a reflex reaction to suggest racism whenever Obama is criticized can ever be broken, because its an ugly habit. As I wrote, Obama’s no more unusual than many Presidents, just unique in his own way.

      I assume that he loves his country. I don’t see much evidence that he loves the culture, traditions, history or people–I think a good case can be built that he doesn’t even like them, or at least most of them. And again, so what? And who cares what Rudy says?

      • Any reference to Obama’s cultural background can’t possibly be termed racist.

        Well, I think that would depend heavily on what you consider “cultural background.” If you are referencing the fact that Obama’s black, and is therefore “not one of us”, then I would consider that racist, though as I pointed out, that is just one of several different, and equally plausible possibilities. Given the (deliberate?) ambiguity of Giuliani’s statements, I see no reason to reflexively rule out a racist interpretation. It’s just as plausible as anything else at this point.

        I don’t see much evidence that he loves the culture, traditions, history or people–I think a good case can be built that he doesn’t even like them, or at least most of them.

        I see plenty of evidence that he loves the all of the above, though he does see their imperfections. It is more akin to a man’s love for his wife, where he sees her flaws, and loves her anyway, then a child’s for its mother, where no criticism can be brooked.

        • I see evidence that he enjoys certain aspects of it, like the NCAA basketball tournament. I cannot think of any President who has evinced as much hostility to so many basic American priorities, values, sources of pride and traditions.

          And how is what Giuliani said in any way racially provocative? Obama was raised in a unique setting with unusual influences. His culture was no more American black than mine was. #10. Or even 311.

            • Except, I think many, if not most, people who make that argument make it precisely because they think the evidence from all those “developed Western nations” indicates that the policy does work, without necessarily having any particular animus towards American culture in general. I mean, Japan still manages to have a lot of unique characteristics about it, but the country wouldn’t have been able to industrialize if they had just ignored what America and Western Europe were doing, and I don’t think you could argue that the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa era policymakers and leaders who took Japan into the modern age were automatically hostile to the “basic [Japanese] priorities, values, sources of pride and traditions” (indeed, they often suffered from quite the opposite malady).

              • The policy works is a real argument: that can be shown with subs substantive evidence. “All those developed Western nations” do it is an appeal to authority as well as “everybody does it.” If one believes that the United State’s values and philosophy has been shown to be superior to those nations over the span of US history, you don’t make that argument. If Western Europe was all communist—as it well might be if past US Presidents had the same attitude toward US moral standing as this one, by the way—that wouldn’t make communism superior to Democracy, though its adherants did and do claim it “works.”

          • I cannot think of any President who has evinced as much hostility to so many basic American priorities, values, sources of pride and traditions
            ? Like what?

            And how is what Giuliani said in any way racially provocative? Obama was raised in a unique setting with unusual influences. His culture was no more American black than mine was. #10. Or even 311.

            It’s the “he doesn’t love you, or me.” Well who is the “you” here, and what do “you” have in common with me? As pointed out in the article above, Giuliani himself had a very unusual childhood and background, ironically in some ways quite in common with Obama. And I daresay most Americans were not raised in the “traditional” (ie white, middle-class, two-parent, suburban, stay at home wife) childhood upbringing touted by 50s sitcoms. So again, who are the “you” and the “me”, and what do they have in common? It might be race, it might be other things. But again, I see no reason to knee-jerk rule out race as one of the many possibilities that could be interpreted here. To me that is just as mistaken as saying that it *must* be interpreted racially, and no other interpretation is possible.

            • Oh, begin with work and self sufficiency; appreciation of success, invention, and business creation; merit over racial and gender quotas, respect for the military and law enforcement, rule of law and border integrity; America’s role in th world, sovereignty over international control, accountability, the basic belief that the U.S. is a force for goo in the world, the rights of states and communities to govern themselves within Constitutional limits, the separation of powers, treating the public like children rather than his boss…it’s a very long list.

              As for the supposed racism, that’s a false equivalency. In the absence of any racial reference, you can’t say one can presume racism as fairly as no racism. “You” and “me” means conservatives, traditional Americans, Republicans, those who believe in American traditions and the values that built the nation.

              • You” and “me” means conservatives, traditional Americans, Republicans, those who believe in American traditions and the values that built the nation.

                So you are allowed to infer all those possible meanings from Guiliani’s words, but a possible racial interpretation is off-limits? Ok then.

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