The two-term former mayor of New York City who couldn’t even make it through the first quarter of a Republican presidential primary just called the two-term president of the United States un-American.
Digging into his bag of bigoted ad-libs, Rudy Giuliani couldn’t help scratching his racist itch during a recent “off-the-record” fundraising dinner for 2016 presidential wannabe Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.): “I do not believe … that the president loves America,” claimed the undisputed champion of urban stop and frisk, who jailed record numbers of black men for misdemeanors during his eight years as Big Apple chief. “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.”
This is what Giuliani is really good at: publicly blasting brothers. If he can’t jail them anymore—misdemeanor arrests of young black men in New York City actually tripled during his term—then he’ll gladly paint them as non-Americans. Pitching himself as “America’s mayor,” with a sizable mix of deluded Republican donors and activists seeming to dig his prejudiced televised tirades, Giuliani keeps at it with his racist “Best of Rudy” road show.
It’s easy to dismiss Giuliani as the old, grumpy has-been who now loves to run the neighborhood kids off his porch with a double-barreled shotgun. But the fact that he’s keynoting private dinners for rising Republican stars (not to mention the CEOs and conservative media folks who were there) should give us all pause.
So, here are three quick reasons that these comments were as politically fine-tuned as they were just another set of classic Rudyisms:
Bringing Back the Great White Hope in the White House
Let’s face it: Republicans, along with a lot of white voters, want a white dude back in the White House. That’s why the entire Republican presidential field is, and will be, made up entirely of white guys (Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are just window dressing). If the 2014 midterm elections signaled anything, it was that white voters want a return to the White Guy in Charge model. And based on recent polling, they could get that.
There’s still a very large segment of the Republican electorate that despises President Obama, and will continue to despise him, because he’s black—and doesn’t have a “Christian” name. As recently as a July 2014 Rasmussen poll, Birthers are still very much alive and well: Forty-one percent of Republican voters still believe that POTUS wasn’t born here. Even though that’s substantially less than the 64 percent of Grand Old Party voters who believed the same in a 2013 Farleigh Dickinson University poll, it’s still plenty. Thus, Giuliani is not alone when nearly half the GOP base, gearing up for a red-blooded 2016 presidential primary, agrees with him.
Tripping Up the Next Democratic Nominee for President
Although President Obama isn’t on the ballot in 2016, he will still be president until Inauguration Day 2017—which means that his brand will be heavily felt throughout the campaign. The big question is, will the next Democratic nominee (presumably Hillary Clinton) embrace him on the campaign trail, or will the Dems keep him out of view the same way they did in 2014?
There is no indication, yet, that Democrats will leverage their commander in chief. And if the nominee is, indeed, the usually cautious Clinton, there’s every reason to believe that she’ll play the election much the way Vice President Al Gore did in 2000 when he actively distanced himself from Bill Clinton. Look where that got him.
Republicans know this, and are also aware of the Democrats’ desperate bid to lock in more white votes in 2016 to offset a predicted lower-than-normal black-voter turnout because President Obama won’t be running. Hence, the GOP will play racial politics hard in 2016, forcing the nervous Democratic nominee to choose between standing with the president and gaining needed white votes.
Whitewashing the Bush Era
And lastly, having prominent Republicans like Giuliani paint the president as alien and un-American is a great way to keep the media cycle from giving us all a refresher on this: The most destructive and deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil happened under the watch of a Republican president. Mic drops. Boom.
President Obama may not be the perfect foreign policy president. No president really is. But say what you will, this president has been much more lethal hunting down terrorists than the last one. After all, he is the guy who killed Osama bin Laden. At the end of the day, we have not suffered the kind of horrific mass-casualty destruction (knock on wood) under this president that we did under his predecessor, George W. Bush—including the debacle that was the 2005 Hurricane Katrina response. And with that Republican president’s brother Jeb Bush now running for president, Republicans will play every racial angle they can not to have that debate.
Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.