At the end of many episodes of Jackie Gleason’s classic, “The Honeymooners,” a defeated Ralph would come home, give his put-upon but loyal wife Alice that hang-dog look and she would always ask, “Why Ralph, why?”
Dripping with humility, Ralph would always respond, “…because I have a BIIIIG Mouth!”
While “The Honeymooners” is a comedy, it’s hard to find much to laugh about in the latest insult against President Obama. Last Wednesday (Feb. 18), Giuliani was speaking before a group of private business owners and said the following:
“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.”
It’s not that we’ve all gotten used to typical partisan sniping. It’s become part of the political vernacular. But Giuliani’s comments lower the bar to an all-time low. He’s not just attacking the president over policy. He’s attacking him over his alleged lack of love for his country; this from the same man who rose to become “America’s Mayor,” after the attacks on September 11, 2001.
John Zogby of Zogby Analytics, a polling and research company said that Giuliani’s “…criticism of the president for not being a person who loves America was not even worthy to be called over the top. It was under the bottom and denigrates the political discourse.”
New York Times columnist Charles Blow began his opinion (Feb. 23), “We have arrived at the point where the utter tedium and desperation of personal attacks against the president about his life story and his loyalty are no longer news. The histrionics have shed their ability to shock. Most right-minded Americans — ethically speaking, not ideologically speaking — have moved on.”
And he’s right. However, the following day, Giuliani doubled-down on his comments adding, “I’m not condemning his patriotism — patriots can criticize. They’re allowed to criticize. I don’t hear from him what I heard from Harry Truman, what I heard from Bill Clinton, what I heard from Jimmy Carter, which is these wonderful words about what a great country we are, what an exceptional country we are. When he called us an exceptional country, he said we’re an exceptional country, but so is Greece.” – Giuliani on FOX News, Feb. 19.
With this, The Washington Post Fact-Checker, Glenn Kessler went to work.
“Does former Mayor Giuliani not listen to Obama’s speeches?,” Kessler asks.
Here are just a few examples from Obama that Kessler cites:
“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. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ That is the true genius of America.” – July 27, 2004
“These people are a part of me. And they are part of America, this country that I love.” – March 18, 2008
“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.” – Jan. 24, 2012
“If we refocus our energies on building an economy that grows for everybody, and gives every child in this country a fair chance at success, then I remain confident that the future still looks brighter than the past, and that the best days for this country we love are still ahead.” – Dec. 4, 2013
“Giuliani must have muted the sound whenever Obama spoke,” Kessler concludes. “He certainly has every right to his opinion about the tenor of the president’s remarks. But he has no business claiming something that is so factually incorrect – or easily disproved. He earns four Pinocchios.”
When the Giuliani story first broke late Wednesday, early Thursday, I turned to the print editions of the two newspapers I subscribe to, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. While the Times carried the story, the Journal was missing in action. I waited for Friday’s edition, nothing. Saturday, no story; not even an editorial from Peggy Noonan. In a letter to the editors at the Journal, I wrote the following:
“After former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s shameless comments Wednesday night regarding President Obama (“I do not believe that the president loves America”), I was surprised NOT to find ANY mention of the story in the print edition of your newspaper. I looked through the Friday and Saturday editions twice and no story, no editorial, no printed reference whatsoever. (It is, however, mentioned in your online edition.)
“Nine of the top ten papers I examine throughout the week, all carried printed stories on Guiliani’s comments: USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday and The Houston Chronicle.
“In Saturday’s Opinion page, Peggy Noonan focused on “An Administration Adrift on Denial,” and she had some intelligent points to make. However, it seems Ms. Noonan and the Journal suffer from their own form of denial when it comes to former New York Mayor Guiliani’s appallingly tasteless and public comments.”
While I realize that all newspapers carry political bias, I am deeply disappointed with a newspaper I once regarded as fair and even-handed in covering politically-based stories. In today’s Journal, Giuliani tries to reorganize his original comments. Entitled, “My Bluntness Overshadowed My Message,” (Feb. 23), Giuliani writes, “I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart. My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country…”
Really, Rudy? Let’s return to the transcript.
“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.”
Sounds pretty unequivocal to me, particularly when he says, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me.”
In the editorial, Giuliani goes on to say, “Whether you agreed with me or not, I hope this can be the basis of a real conversation about national leadership.”
While the editorial could be construed as such, nowhere in Giuliani’s original remarks is there anything remotely suggesting “a real conversation.”
“To say, as the president has,” Giuliani continues, “that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country in the world, does not suggest a becoming and endearing modesty, but rather a stark lack of moral clarity.”
Politifact.org, fact-checked the statement. “While at an April 2009 NATO summit in France,” Politifact writes, “a reporter from the London-based Financial Times asked Obama ‘whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?’
“Obama gave a nuanced answer that affirmed his belief in American exceptionalism and that ‘America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity.’ Obama also added, ‘I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.’
“Admitting citizens of other countries believe that their countries are exceptional is not the same thing as saying all countries are equally exceptional, as Giuliani surmised.
“To put it in terms a New Yorker like Giuliani might understand: A Yankees fan who admits a Red Sox fan loves his team is not saying the Red Sox are as good as the Yankees.
“Obama went on to point out — on European soil no less — that America essentially saved Europe during and after World War II, and noted that the United States is ‘the largest economy in the world,” has “unmatched military capacity,” and possesses “a core set of values that are enshrined in our constitution … that, though imperfect, are exceptional.’ ”
Obama’s remarks stands in stark contrast to Giuliani’s op-ed claim that says, “I hope and pray that President Obama can rise to the occasion and underscore America’s greatness as our history and values merit.”
He has, Mr. Mayor, he has.