Rudy Giuliani says Obama doesn't love America. Too far or tough critique?

There are arguably a number of levels of meaning in Giuliani’s words that touch on Republican claims that the president does not believe in American exceptionalism and considers himself 'above it all.'

David Handschuh/Reuters/File
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani reads a poem during remembrance ceremonies on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York September 11, 2010.

Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday that President Obama doesn’t love America, according to a report Thursday in Politico.

That’s a pretty tough attack from somebody who used to be called “America’s Mayor.” Speaking at a private dinner in New York, Mr. Giuliani called into question Obama’s foreign policy moves and the way the president talks about terrorism, writes Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani reportedly said. “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.”

Uh, OK. Bitter at all, Rudy? Or just trolling? Once you were a great hope of the Republican Party, but your 2008 campaign was a historic flop. Obama has won twice. Lots of liberals today will be sending you GIFs of the moment the president mentioned that in this year’s State of the Union speech.

That said there are arguably a number of levels of meaning in Giuliani’s words. He’s saying what some – not all – Republicans believe, in one way or another. Thus he’s getting a few “attaboys” today from the right.

“Barack Obama considers himself above it all, including this country. His policies are intentionally malicious to the strength and security of this nation. Rudy Giuliani is absolutely right,” writes the prominent conservative commentator Erick Erickson of RedState.

On one level Giuliani’s comments can be seen as an invocation of Obama’s race, family background, and education. It walks up to the line of calling the president a “Muslim Kenyan socialist,” without saying so.

Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan connects it to a long string of “loyalty smears” of Obama from figures on the right. These imply, subtly or not, that this US president is an agent of the nation’s enemies. In 2013, for example, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answered “I can’t tell” when asked whether Obama had switched sides in the war on terror.

On another level Giuliani is raising the issue of whether the president believes in American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is a unique force for good in the world. Many on the right have long charged that Obama talks more about the country’s faults than its virtues.

“I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents,” said Giuliani this morning on "Fox and Friends" as he attempted to explain his words.

Likely GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal has said the same thing in recent days, calling Obama “maybe the first president ever” who does not believe in the nation’s exceptional nature.

The problem with this, according to FactCheck.org, is it ignores Obama’s statements. In a speech at West Point last year the president said he believed in America exceptionalism “with every fiber of my being.”

Politicians can have reasonable disagreements about the US role in world affairs but this particular charge “simply ignores Obama’s own words on numerous occasions,” according to FactCheck.org.

Finally, Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday seemed also to take offense at Obama’s comparison of the Crusades to the Islamic State at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month.

The underlying dispute here is that Obama, following the lead of George W. Bush, talks about the US being at war with twisted terrorists who claim to be Muslim, not the religion itself. Giuliani agrees with those on the right who say the US needs to speak out about an essentially religious aspect of today’s battle with terrorists.

“What’s wrong with this man that he can’t stand up and say there’s a part of Islam that’s sick?” said Giuliani, according to Politico.

This is a charge that’s going to get a full airing in the 2016 presidential campaign. In fact, the Giuliani speech in general is going to play at least a bit role in those political festivities. Why? Because likely candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was among the attendees at the dinner where Giuliani made his remarks, that’s why. Reporters will be asking him his opinion of the proceedings for some time to come.

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