The media rushes to defend Obama’s honor from Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused President Barack Obama of not loving his country. Some agreed with those comments; others thought they were silly and even a little offensive. When the former mayor went on to defend that assertion, he insisted that Obama’s personal background and progressives’ antipathy toward European colonial history generally informed his opinions on matters including Islamic radicalism and the moral value of the Crusades. Again, some thought these remarks were tasteless and unfounded while others believed that Giuliani had a point.


The press, predictably, fell all to one side of this controversy. Many in the media reacted as though Giuliani’s comments were an assault on the honor of the president and the country. The rush to condemn the former mayor in terms stronger than those of the last denouncer was stunning. For the political press, this affront demanded satisfaction.

MSNBC’s Steve Benen called the mayor “clownish.” The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson strongly implied that Giuliani was racist. Writing in The New York Daily News, Wayne Barrett noted that Giuliani secured a deferment allowing him to avoid service in the Vietnam War, and added that documents indicate his convict father and five uncles also managed to avoid service in World War II. Who’s the patriot now, huh?

And then a curious but familiar phenomenon occurred. The original comments exhausted of their news value and having squeezed every ounce of convincingly authentic outrage out of the story, the media went on to make this a two-day event by seeking reaction quotes. Every Republican worth his or her salt was soon expected to comment on remarks uttered by political figure who has not held elected office since 2001.

“The mayor can speak for himself,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was asked by CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin. “I’ll tell you, I love America.”

Insufficient. Cowardly! Walker was probed again. “I’m in New York,” Walker finally ceded. “I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.”


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has made a habit of taking every opportunity available to him in order to position himself to the right of the conservative electorate ahead of 2016, said he agreed with Giuliani. “If you are looking for someone to condemn the mayor, look elsewhere,” the governor said, adding that he agreed with the “gist” of the former Big Apple mayor’s comments.

And, thus, a new cycle of righteous indignation inspired by outrageous Republican comments was born.

“Post-autopsy, are you OK with GOP rebranded as the party that decides who loves their country?” National Journal columnist Ron Fournier probed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “Say no to Rudy.”

God forbid the RNC chairman took Fournier up on his advice; we’d still be talking about Giuliani, the godfather of the Republican Party, next Monday.

Maybe the most excessive pile-on could be found, as it so often is, on MSNBC. There, the cast of Morning Joe scrambled over one another to not only denounce Giuliani’s comments but to air 14-year-old grievances against the mayor and to insist that Republicans should entirely abstain from criticizing the outgoing two-term president ahead of 2016. Seriously.

“Yes, Mr. Mayor, it is racist and it sounds, frankly, kind of unhinged,” The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson insisted.

When Donny Deutsch, who was apparently personally offended by Giuliani’s remarks, attacked him for “co-opting the tragedy that was 9/11” and accused him of being a “fringe” element of the GOP, he inspired a panicked series of repudiations from his fellow panelists. Deutsch didn’t seem to realize that his assertion had exposed the fabricated nature of Giuliani-gate, day two.


What are we to make of this frenzied attack on Giuliani, in which the whole of the political press reacted as though a man who left office 14 years ago had insulted their mothers? Some political analysts were just as confused:

Oh, but he was a leading presidential candidate in 2007, don’t you know? And he delivered the keynote address at the GOP’s nominating convention in 2008. And he’s a frequent guest on cable news, so he must be influential (a claim that could only be made by someone who rarely appears on cable news). But observing Giuliani’s diminished stature today when compared to the last decade renders the media’s reaction even less explicable. So, what gives?

For a bit of unvarnished truth, we turn to Florida-based political operative Rick Wilson. As day two of Giuliani-gate dawned, Wilson held the terrible mirror up to the media and bid them stare into its unendurable reflection.


Precisely. It is no matter that the veil slips in the process, the media desperately needed a win after a series of rough news cycles (and the president’s decision to set his rebounding job approval ratings on fire by re-litigating the Middle Ages). They’re not above manufacturing one.

The press did not recoil in horror when former Vice President Al Gore screamed that George W. Bush “betrayed” the country. Nor did they feign outrage when Obama accused the 43rd President of the United States of being “unpatriotic” because he increased the debt at a pace that the 44th President of the United States would rapidly eclipse. And why would they? It’s not their place to defend the president’s reputation – he is, after all, merely a temporary civilian custodian of one branch of our republican government. Americans have a rather grand tradition of besmirching the character of our presidents, and it is a healthy and cherished one. By “civility,” the press really means deference and observance of subjectively assessed standards of decorum. That’s not merely bias, its servility.


Not everyone on the right agreed with Giuliani’s guileless comments, but their sympathy for his denouncers was lost amid the deluge of outsize overreaction. They protest far, far too much. This episode has been unseemly, unwarranted, and more than a little embarrassing.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the chairman of the RNC as Ron Fournier

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