The op-ed begins with a transparently dishonest pseudo-walkback -- he effectively tells everyone who read stories about what he said, "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" -- and then goes on to advance the same treason-baiting talking points he was advancing last week.
My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart.To use the language of the faith Giuliani and I used to share, this isn't a sincere act of contrition because Giuliani won't acknowledge what he did wrong. Of course he intended to question President Obama’s motives and the content of his heart. He said of the president, "I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me." In a sincere apology or legitimate walkback, Giuliani would acknowledge what he actually said, and admit his own error. All he's willing to do here is concede a perhaps inappropriate "bluntness," to quote the op-ed's title.
In the rest of the op-ed, Giuliani just keeps punching the president; this is no walkback. And, well, that's how the right operates -- never cede ground, never give up any fight. That's why the right wins so many of America's political battles.
Obama, to Giuliani, is still a bad, harmful president because he won't praise America to the skies at every possible opportunity. To Giuliani, not only is American chest-thumping entirely justified, it makes the rest of the world like us more:
American values, worn with pride, give our nation a unique moral authority that can help achieve foreign-policy and security goals while fostering the consensus necessary to address thorny domestic issues.The reason we win wars is that we say we're awesome all the time! Why doesn't Obama understand that?
Giuliani says that Obama is a bad president because Giuliani doesn't hear him saying America is awesome -- it doesn't matter if Obama actually does say this if it seems to Giuliani as if he doesn't:
Irrespective of what a president may think or feel, his inability or disinclination to emphasize what is right with America can hamstring our success as a nation. This is particularly true when a president is seen, as President Obama is, as criticizing his country more than other presidents have done, regardless of their political affiliation.Obama's actual words and deeds don't matter, only what he "is seen" as doing or saying (by, presumably, Giuliani and his fellow consumers of right-wing media propaganda).
Of course, as Paul Waldman has noted, Obama praises America on a regular basis. This is from Obama's most recent State of the Union address:
... I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.Yeah, Obama said this, but is he seen to have said this?
I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I've seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I've mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I've watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.
So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.
(UPDATE: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has collected many more examples of Obama expressing his love for America and praising it as exceptional. But Obama's not seen as having said any of the things Kessler quotes, I guess.)
In the op-ed, Giuliani identifies John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton as presidents who "possessed the ability to walk a fine line by placing any constructive criticisms regarding the ways the country might improve in the context of their unbending belief in American exceptionalism." Well, maybe -- but I wonder what the Giuliani of 2015 would say about the Kennedy of 1960 who said this as he was running for president:
We have heard many general claims and boasts, we have heard how we are first in every area of international competition. We have heard about what must be done to stand firm and to stand up to Khrushchev and all the rest. But no amount of oratory, no amount of oratory, no amount of claims, no unjustified charges, can hide the harsh facts behind the rhetoric, behind the soothing words that our prestige has never been higher and that of the Communists never lower. They cannot hide the basic facts that American strength in relation to that of the Sino-Soviet bloc relatively has been slipping, and communism has been steadily advancing until now it rests 90 miles from this city of Miami. [Applause.]"American decline"! A True Patriot can't say that!
The implacable Communist drive for power takes many forms and works in many ways, but behind it all, behind every weapon that they have in their arsenal is one basic fact, and that is the military power of the Communist bloc, for it is here that the Communist advance and relative American decline can be most sharply seen, and it is here that the danger to our survival is the greatest.
Paul Waldman has quoted a speech Ronald Reagan delivered on Election Eve 1980, in which he said,
Many of us are unhappy about our worsening economic problems, about the constant crisis atmosphere in our foreign policy, about our diminishing prestige around the globe, about the weakness in our economy and national security that jeopardizes world peace, about our lack of strong, straight-forward leadership.But Reagan expressed even more doubts about America in a speech he delivered in 1969, when he was governor of California. In that speech, among other things, he said this:
In that speech, he also said this:
"Are we the lost generation"? Invoking the fall of Rome? WHY WON'T RONALD REAGAN TALK ABOUT AMERICAN GREATNESS?!?!?!
And apparently Giuliani didn't think it was necessary to talk incessantly about New York City's greatness when he was running for mayor. This is from his 1989 campaign stump speech:
Maybe the best way to put it is no matter what else we do, no matter what other great things we achieve in the next year or two years, if next year this city has more crime and more drugs, this city's going down.Didn't Giuliani know that you harm a place if don't lavish it with praise all the time? Why did he hate New York?
It's going to continue to decline. No one is going to want to live here. No one is going to want to place businesses here. No one is going to want to keep their business here, if the crime rates increase next year the way they have this year, if the murder rate increases next year the way it has last year and this year.
Last year we set a record for the most murders in our history as a city ... and we're about to set that record again this year. If we set that record next year, there's nothing we're going to be able to do to bring this city back. There's nothing we're going to be able to do to move this city from its present course, which is a city in decline, to what we're going to have to do, which is to move it toward progress and a better future.