Editorial: Giuliani’s cheap shot is plain racism

Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
As a public figure in one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, it’s striking that Rudy Giuliani appears to equate homogeneity with patriotism.

At a Manhattan appearance, the former New York City mayor 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,” according to Politico. “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.”

That quote sums up the racially charged lines of attack used by many Republicans against President Obama for the last seven years.

Facing widespread criticism after the quote was made public, Giuliani tried to elaborate. He claimed that because Obama’s mother was white, his comment couldn’t have been racist. What nonsense. If that were the case, most African-Americans today wouldn’t face discrimination, given our nation’s mixed-race history.

What’s most bewildering about Giuliani’s criticism is that he couldn’t simply disagree with Obama’s policies or ideas. He couldn’t accept that perhaps he and the nation’s twice-elected president have similar motives. No, instead what he did was paint Obama as different. As an other.

Let’s remember the source of the criticism, a politician who viewed himself as the right man to become president in 2008. His campaign was a disaster, with a strategy that depended on big states with later primaries turning out to vote for “America’s Mayor.” When this began to look like a bad idea, he tried to campaign in New Hampshire, but he ended up finishing fourth.

Was it too much to ask that, after such an implosion, Giuliani disappear into richly paid but otherwise obscure consultancy gigs? Most had tired by that point of Giuliani’s approach to politics, summed up by Joe Biden as: “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence – a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

Giuliani hasn’t gone away, though. And he’s apparently interested in playing a role in the 2016 presidential election. His glib and ill-considered commentary on Obama shows why that’s a terrible idea.

Regardless of Giuliani’s intentions (most likely pandering), otherness and separateness are the building blocks of discrimination against all oppressed groups. Be they African-Americans, women, LGBT people or those with disabilities, treating them as separate and un-American dehumanizes them. It silences their voices. It gives the powerful in society another reason to ignore those with legitimate grievances.

Giuliani’s comments about Obama are offensive. There can be no doubt about that. But by casually embracing the very basis of racism itself, the former mayor has shown himself willing to destroy his reputation for a cheap political shot.