Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani caused an uproar from Democrats following his remarks questioning President Barack Obama’s patriotism at a private dinner in New York City on Wednesday evening, Feb. 18, 2015. Giuliani faced a backlash from the White House where deputy press secretary Eric Schultz condemned the comment as “a horrible thing to say,” and from Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz among other Democrats. Meanwhile Giuliani is finding support from fellow Republican, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Politico first reported the former mayor’s comments where he expressed, “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.”
Potential 2016 presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker attended the dinner and was sitting in the front. Both Wasserman Schultz and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Walker to respond and focused more of their criticism against Walker than even Giuliani. The former New York mayor emphasized Walker because he was in attendance, which also brought him the unwanted criticism. Giuliani stated, “with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world. I’m looking for a presidential candidate who can express that, do that and carry it out. And if it’s you Scott, I’ll endorse you. And if it’s somebody else, I’ll support somebody else.”
Wasserman Schultz spoke to the Association of Democratic State Chairs at the DNC Winter Meeting Thursday, Feb. 19 in Washington, D.C according to ABC News. The DNC Chair referred to Walker saying, “One of the GOP frontrunners was sitting just feet away, and didn’t say a word.” Continuing she said, “If the Republican Party really wants to be taken seriously, really wants to avoid its problems of the past, now is the time for its leaders to stop this kind of nonsense. Enough…I would challenge my Republican colleagues and anyone in the Republican Party to say enough. They need to start leading.” Mentioning former President George W. Bush (2001-2009), Wasserman Schultz pointed out that she “rarely agreed with President Bush, but I never questioned his love for our country. I don’t often agree with my Republican colleagues on the Hill, but I know they love America.”
Gov. Walker did make a blanket statement to CNBC’s Squawk Box, saying he does not have to comment or defend himself. The Wisconsin Governor responded, “The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well.”
Meanwhile Giuliani has since done two more interviews clarifying his original statement and position. In an interview after his speech on Wednesday evening, Giuliani said, “What country has left so many young men and women dead abroad to save other countries without taking land? This is not the colonial empire that somehow he has in his hand. I’ve never felt that from him. I felt that from [George] W. [Bush]. I felt that from [Bill] Clinton. I felt that from every American president, including ones I disagreed with, including [Jimmy] Carter. I don’t feel that from President Obama.”
The next morning on Thursday, Giuliani appeared on Fox News backtracking a bit on his point, saying, he is “not questioning his patriotism… He’s a patriot, I’m sure. What I’m saying is, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things that I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America.”
Among the GOP, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who is also contemplating a presidential run, decided to defend Giuliani in a statement, saying, “The gist of what Mayor Giuliani said – that the president has shown himself to be completely unable to speak the truth about the nature of the threats from these ISIS terrorists – is true. If you are looking for someone to condemn the mayor, look elsewhere.” Although Jindal did admit, Giuliani “should have chosen different phraseology.” Continuing, he stated there are bigger problems with the Obama presidency, “The level of the president’s love for our country is immaterial at this juncture. What President Obama has obviously demonstrated for everyone is that he is incapable of successfully executing his duties as our commander in chief.”
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.