Generally speaking, when you start a comment with the qualifier “I know this is a horrible thing to say,” it’s a good sign you shouldn’t say it. It’s sort of like starting a sentence with “This is probably going to sound racist, but...” Just stop. Right there. Don’t go on. You’ve already warned yourself.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has become the latest politician to not listen to his own vocalized alarm bells. After warning a roomful of Republican bigwigs that he was about to say a horrible thing, Giuliani said a horrible thing.
“I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani told the conservative audience at an event for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in New York on Wednesday night. “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.”
What the effing eff, Giuliani?!?
Not that anyone else present dissented or disagreed. Actually I imagine the 60 or so Republicans in the audience then grabbed the party favor dog whistles from in their swag bags and hooped and hollered it up.
Scott Walker apparently spoke as well but his aides insisted his comments were all off the record. Presumably Giuilani’s aides were passed out in a corner somewhere, high on their own horses or something else. And after his speech rant, Giuliani doubled down in an interview with Politico.
While ugly insults against President Obama are so frequent these days it’s hard to be surprised, Giuliani’s assertion that Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up” is still breathtaking. Made to a room of Republican business executives and media figures, who it’s pretty safe to assume were mostly white, Giuliani might as well have just outright said Obama “isn’t like us.” It would be refreshing to see the Republican Party, which so desperately wants to appeal to the diversity of American voters, forcefully stand up against those within its ranks who insult that diversity.
It’s striking that Giuliani made his remarks at an event for Scott Walker, who the day before made news by defending the fact that he’d not graduated from college and yet should still be considered qualified to be president. That is also a debate about elitism, about who belongs and who doesn’t. One could imagine a room of presumably top-educated conservatives (Giuliani, for instance, went to NYU Law School) ostracizing Walker. But no, Walker has the pro-business, anti-worker policies to be in the club. Plus, of course, he’s white.
Part of what’s appealing—in fact, the only thing that’s appealing—about Scott Walker being president is that he would represent and connect with the millions of Americans who haven’t gone to college and yet still work hard and deserve their shot at the American Dream. The president should be the president for all Americans, not just those with the same educational background he or she shares. The same should go for race. Giuliani’s remarks echo Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks in the last presidential election, suggesting that not only was almost half of the country lazy, don’t take personal responsibility and simply “don’t care for their lives,” but that it wouldn’t be his job as president to “worry about those people.” Given the changing demographic realities in America, and the fact that he was running against the nation's first black president, it was hard to not hear Romney’s comments through the lens of race.
Especially when taken together, Giuliani and Romney’s comments reveal a deeper Republican truth—the idea that certain Americans are more important than others and those Americans should be the ones the president is like and even “loves” and certainly thinks about first and foremost. Call them “job creators” or “patriots” or whatever you want: They’re probably white, and definitely well off. Call it “trickle down politics,” the fundamentally elitist Republican notion that taking care of “us” at the top should be the priority of political leadership. Theoretically, it eventually trickles down, though we’ve been waiting centuries for more than a dribble.
Rudy Giuliani’s comments are narrow-minded, ugly and just plain offensive. But what’s even more disturbing is the biased, morally superior, elitist Republican worldview that his comments merely reflect.