Open Letter to Rudy Giuliani on the Characterization of Obama


A cartoon of Rudy Giuliani with bats flying out of his mouth.

Rudy Giuliani's continuing criticism of President Obama is neither informed nor constructive. What, exactly, is he saying, asks Dr. Blumenfeld. Credit: CreativeCommons / DonkeyHotey

Dear Rudy,
I realize that you don’t know me, but I hope you won’t mind if I refer to you as “Rudy.” Anyway, I am writing to you because, frankly, you said some things about President Obama that confused me. I hope you can clarify some things.
During a private dinner held in New York City for possible GOP 2016 presidential contender, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, you said:
“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 do not believe that the president loves America.”
So, Rudy, let’s break down your statement. When you say that “I do not believe that the president loves America,” what indication do you have or what criteria are you using? I really want to know,
If Obama truly did not love America, why then would he have worked so diligently for the betterment of the nation? Rudy, I realize your time is precious, so I will be brief in the list of Obama accomplishments because I could go on for volumes:
The Great Recession under the George W. Bush presidency cost our economy nearly 800,000 jobs per month when Obama took over the Oval Office. But by the end of his first year alone, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by 3.5%. In the single year of 2010, Obama supervised the establishment of more jobs than Bush did during his entire eight-year administration.
Obama pushed for the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, while at the same time pressuring and succeeding in having banks and others repay virtually all of the bail-out money plus interest.
During his administration, and under his direct guidance, he reduced redundancy and saved millions of tax dollars with an Executive Order calling for an audit of government contracts.
Because of Obama and the Democratic-led Congress, they passed and implemented the U.S. automobile industry rescue plan, which not only saved up to one-million jobs, but also reinstated this country leadership in automotive innovation.
He proudly signed the Democratic-sponsored Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding the Making Home Affordable Program, helping millions of people avoid preventable home foreclosures. This bill also helped combat homelessness and stabilized the housing market by pumping in $2.2 billion.
He and the Democrats led efforts to provide tax credits for first-time home buyers, initiated increased lending to small business, saved as many as 300,000 education-related jobs with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and substantially increased our country’s energy independence.
In the area of international relations, Obama reaffirmed and strengthened our partnership in NATO, rejected Israel’s desire to attack Iran over its possible nuclear program, pushed for the passage of the Iran Sanctions Act, opened a dialogue with Cuba, and prohibited the use of torture in U.S. detention and interrogation policies.
And in Civil Rights, with Congressional Democrats, he advanced and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identities, pushed for and signed the Pentagon’s repeal of the prejudicial”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, appointed the first trans* Cabinet official, composed and signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act giving protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers, increased funding for the Violence against Women Act, appointed a Special Assistant for Disability Policy, established the White House Council of Native American Affairs, and enhanced Fair Housing Laws, among many other things.
So Rudy, I know you are not particularly thrilled by many of Obama’s accomplishments that I listed as well as many I left out, but I ask, which in particular do you reject?
“He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me.”
Well, Rudy, do you “love” everyone in the United States, those you know and those you don’t. Obama couldn’t love me since I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know I exist. You might be entirely correct that though he does know you, chances are that he, in fact, doesn’t love you, or even like you. I can’t, however, speak for the President. You will have to ask him yourself.
“He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
What does this mean? I’m sure Mr. Obama was not brought up like I was in my lower-middle class Jewish-American household. He most likely wasn’t bullied on a daily basis like me during the conservative 1950s as a gay and gender-transgressive child. Obama’s father wasn’t around to raise him. Though my father was part of my childhood, he was gone for weeks at a time on the road serving as a traveling salesman. I could even say that my sister, who was only 18-months younger, though we were “brought up” together, we certainly were not brought up the same.
And yes, Rudy, I’m pretty sure Obama wasn’t raised like you: a white, Christian, male with all the socially-conferred unearned privileges that engenders. Also, Mr. Obama’s father did not work for his brother’s mob-connected loan sharking business like your father, Harold Giuliani. You, however, were raised by a father who had spent six months in jail for robbing a milkman at gunpoint in 1934.
Did you ever think, though, that Mr. Obama entered politics to ensure equal opportunities and rights for all people regardless of social identities, and where and how they were raised?
Adding to your initial comments at the forum with Scott Walker, you added that:
“…with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world….I’ve never felt that from him.”
I would ask you, if Obama really did not believe the U.S. to be an exceptional country, why would he have announced that in front of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013?:
“Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness to the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up, not only for our own interests, but for the interests of all.”
In the importance of full disclosure Rudy, I think this notion of “American exceptionalism” (also read as “American superiority”), is a tired and dangerous myth that we are taught as soon as we exit the womb. The U.S. has its strengths and weaknesses as do all other countries. This lie of “exceptionalism” separates our country and our residents from people of other nations by giving us the image of the “arrogant Americans,” which only engenders ridicule and scorn for us around the world. Rather than envisioning ourselves as “exceptional,” I would have our leaders promote us and act as partners in an interdependent community of great nations.
During a follow-up interview with the New York Times to answer criticism that your comments about Obama reflected a racist bias, you rejected the charge and stated, instead, that you were simply talking about Obama’s worldview that formed his upbringing.
“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….This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”
“…he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people.”
So by this statement, are you saying, or at least implying, that anything you say to or about our biracial president, the first in the history of this country, could not, therefore, be considered racist? Are you implying that anything other than explicitly racist language could not be considered racist?
What about coded (“dog-whistle”) language, for example, “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” What about the massive calls from members of the “Tea Party” for Mr. Obama to display his birth certificate before his election continuing long into his first term? What about the investigations into his time spent in Indonesia as a child? What about his roots in Africa through his birth father?
“This is socialism…”
Rudy, what do you mean by the term “socialism.” If you are referring to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. Obama Care), this is certainly not an example of socialism. The ACA is founded on a Capitalist base with private insurance companies benefiting by providing the policies. I had hoped that our country could have adopted more of a Canadian or European model of government-sponsored health care to ensure universal coverage, but the United States, being a right-of-center nation, would not accept this.
Rudy, even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced in many conservative commentators’ representations of President Obama and various progressive politicians.
As destructive and as freedom-killing as you and others on the Right would have us believe, Socialism involves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.
No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.
“…or possibly anti-colonialism.”
So why, Rudy, are you throwing the term “anti-colonialism” as an epithet? Are you not “anti-colonial yourself?” I realize that you mean this in terms of your disgust that Obama has attempted to disengage our troops and resources from the battles waging in Iraq and Afghanistan, but shouldn’t “anti-colonialism” serve as a guiding political principle and be viewed in a positive light? Wasn’t our nation founded on this very principle? If not, your title might have been “Colonial Mayor of New Amsterdam.” The rest of us would have been pledging our allegiance to the Queen of England, the nation of France, or Spain.
In conclusion Rudy, while you met head-on the enormous challenges brought by the horrendous and tragic events in New York City on September 11, 2001, and you helped bring the City back from seemingly insurmountable odds, you would do yourself and our nation, and even the Republic Party, a great service by simply resting on your accomplishments, reflecting on your failures and shortcomings, and retreat to the annuls of history.
Yours sincerely,
Warren J. Blumenfeld

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

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