Opinion: Guest Commentary: The heroic mayor’s tragic fall from grace
In 2004, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama stood before the Democratic National Convention and declared, “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” Running for President in 2008, Obama told that year’s DNC, “I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.” At a 2011 town hall meeting in Illinois he discussed why he loved this country so much.
Those articulations, as well as numerous expressions of love of country that he’s repeated both as U.S. Senator and President, belie the odious personal attacks on him by extreme right wing media hacks and politicians, amplified last week by New York’s former mayor Rudy Giuliani with his ridiculous statements questioning Obama’s patriotism.
“I do not believe that the President loves America,” he told a gathering at Club 21, to which he wasn’t invited. “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.”
Giuliani’s obsessive hate-Obama barrage is weird. It also symbolizes the pitiful self-degradation of the man who was such a heroic figure during and after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
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Amid the deluge of critical reaction from sources across the political spectrum, Giuliani refused to walk it back. Instead, he scurried to the comfortable quarters of Fox News where he reinforced and expanded his diatribe, telling host Megyn Kelly that he wouldn’t apologize for his remarks. “Not at all, I want to repeat it” he said. “(He) has not displayed … the kind of love of America and exceptionalism that other American Presidents have displayed. I’m right about this. I have no doubt about it. I do not withdraw my words.”
He echoed the familiar right wing falsehood that the President apologizes for America. In fact, in his first inaugural, Obama declared “We will not apologize for our way of life.” He told the 2014 U.S. Military Academy class, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” U.S. News columnist Robert Schlesinger has noted that “Only one sitting President in the last 82 years has publicly uttered the magical phrase ‘American exceptionalism’–care to guess who it is? Ronald Reagan?…George W. Bush?…Nope. The only President to publicly discuss ‘American exceptionalism’ is Barack Obama.”
Last year the President told the American Legion convention that the United States is “the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity the world has ever known.”
Giuliani also charged that Obama criticizes America.
OK, visiting Berlin in 2008, Obama said, “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people … There are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.” It’s all accurate and clearly illustrated in our political struggles over the past few years in the areas of voter suppression, income inequality and immigration policy. Self-criticism is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it’s part of our exceptionalism. Our Constitution’s preamble reminds us that the nation was designed to “form a more perfect union.” In the same speech, Obama reiterated, “I also know how much I love America.”
Perhaps Giuliani could chastise Speaker John Boehner and numerous congressional ideologues who last week held America’s safety hostage to their push for expelling undocumented immigrants who love America, who contribute to it, want to be part of it, want to preserve and defend it. With the Islamic State explicitly threatening the U.S. and its brutality metastasizing, these radicals opposed funding the Department of Homeland Security unless it included an amendment blocking Obama’s executive order that deferred millions of deportations. Their audacity not only sabotages our national security, it undermines a core principal of who we are: a proud nation of immigrants. They would rather sacrifice the national interest to their hatred of President Obama.
Self-aggrandizer-in-chief Giuliani foolishly told Fox’s Sean Hannity that “President Obama didn’t live through Sept. 11, I did!” Yet Hizzhoner’s leadership in 2001 doesn’t make him more patriotic than the rest of us. Al qaeda’s attack was directed at America, not him. The mayor thought he was so indispensable that year that he sought a 90-day extension of his term. On Sept.11 we were all citizens of New York, of Washington, of Shanksville, just as American citizens were citizens of Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
Here’s another “exceptionalism” illustration for Rudy: he can personally attack the President with false statements and not get thrown in the clink for it.
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