Littwin: Forever running against Obama

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f I didn’t know better, I’d say that Rudy Giuliani was collaborating with the enemy (by which I mean, of course, Hillary Clinton).

Clinton is the all-but-certain Democratic candidate for president, but hardly anyone on the Republican side is laying a glove on her. The media is all over the Clinton Foundation for taking money — apparently legal, but perhaps not altogether ethical, money — from foreign countries while Hillary Clinton has presumably been preparing to run for president.

And, meanwhile, the headline story continues to be that Republicans are all over Barack Obama, who can’t run again, for supposedly not loving America enough, or at all.

Haven’t we gotten past this? Quick answer: Uh, no.

[pullquote]They won’t be running against Obama but they can’t stop running against Obama. The fringe attack lines are still going mainstream. They come from Rep. Mike Coffman and America’s ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.[/pullquote]

If it all seems so 2012 — back when people like Mike Coffman were saying of Obama “that in his heart, he’s not an American” and Newt Gingrich was on his “Kenyan, anti-colonial” kick — that just means you haven’t been paying attention. It’s 2008, 2012, 2015 and every year in between. Obama paranoia is a constant in our political world. If it’s not a birth certificate, it’s his religion or — you can actually hear this from GOP Rep. Scott Perry on YouTube — it’s his collaboration with the “enemy of freedom” (by which I don’t mean, of course, Hillary Clinton).

The latest round began, as we all know, with Giuliani, once America’s Mayor and now, sadly, a Donald Trump wannabe. If only Rudy could get his own TV show.

It was Giuliani who told a meeting of rich Americans that Obama didn’t love America, whatever that means. I grew up in the era of love-it-or-leave-it bumper stickers — which didn’t make much sense even then — and now for years a significant percentage of Republicans have been stuck on the idea that Obama doesn’t love/won’t leave and can’t accept either.

No one would have paid attention to Giuliani except that Scott Walker, the hot new thing in GOP presidential politics, was also at the dinner. And Walker chose to say nothing to refute the Rudyness or to defend Obama’s patriotism.

Actually, saying nothing might have been his best course. It’s when Walker started answering questions about saying nothing that he got himself in trouble. The right answer for a Republican candidate — see: Marco Rubio, as one example — was that, of course, Obama loves America, but it’s his policies that are questionable.

Walker said, “I’m not going to comment on whether, what the president thinks or not. . . . I’ll tell you I love America, and I think there are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent and everyone in between, who love this country.”

That was just the beginning. In a follow-up interview, the Washington Post asked Walker if he believed Obama when he said he was a Christian, and Walker said “I don’t know,” leading to the obvious question: Which answer is the more dangerous kind of pandering? I’ll go with America-hater, but it’s a close call.

None of this may hurt Walker in the GOP primaries, but the reason the Wisconsin governor suddenly got so hot is that he’s seen as a hard-nosed conservative who seemed able to also talk to moderates. And worse still, every conceivable GOP candidate is now being asked whether Obama loves America, and whatever the right response, it’s clearly the wrong question to have to answer.

American presidents pretty much all love America. It’s part of the job description. It’s harder to define exactly what loving America is — I’m guessing that Rudy and I see the whole thing differently, and not just because he’s a Yankees fan — but Giuliani goes so far as to accuse Obama of not loving actual Americans, including American voters who elected him twice.

In Rudy’s words, ones that will haunt him forever: “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.”

I’m sure Walker didn’t agree with Giuliani. I don’t know if Giuliani agreed with Giuliani. It’s just as clear, though, that Walker didn’t quite know how to say so, which suggests a larger problem.

Demonizing your opponent — from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama — is the modern product of red-blue, cable-TV-news, Internet-driven choosing up of sides. It’s not enough to question policies. We have to question motives. And so, from the fringes, Clinton killed Vince Foster and Bush blew up the World Trade Center. But Obama is different because, in his case, the fringes have gone mainstream. It’s from Mike Coffman. It’s from America’s ex-Mayor.

And when the why-is-this-so question is inevitably asked, the inevitable answers divide us even more. As Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote the other day, can you really not love America when your vice-president is literally America-loving Joe Biden?

Obama will be president for nearly two more years, and you don’t have to be Karl Rove to figure out that the best strategy for any Republican candidate will be to tie Hillary Clinton to Obama whenever possible. Except for now, of course, when Walker helped Giuliani make defending Obama all too easy.

[Photo by Barry Hackner.]


  1. I wish the Democrats had a strategy for responding to these attacks. They don’t.
    Talk radio has been incredibly important in critical Republican wins; beginning with the MA senate victory of Scott Brown in 2010; the 2010 and 2014 midterms and the defeat of Eric Cantor. The Republicans have a lock on the majority of state governments, and are posed to leverage that into a 2016 victory. The Democrats don’t have a strategy, a bench, or a clue. I wish most “progressive” columnists would address these problems.

  2. Joanne, I obviously can’t speak for the vast majority of people, but I think we’re so polarized right now that I doubt anyone is swayed by these kinds of smears. The people who propagate or believe them aren’t going to be moved, and the rest of us see them for what they are. There are very few on-the-fence people around anymore.

    The “Progressive” columnists I have read and watched have been addressing this for many years, but again, we have all taken our positions. That said, I think it’s important that all these bogus attacks must be answered with actual facts.

  3. Joanne, the right wing media machine is funded by billionaires motivated by the knowledge that literally owning a legislative majority is immensely profitable. THAT is why they fund FOX, AEI, Heritage, Hoover, Hudson, Independence, and all the others contributing to the onslaught of right wing propaganda. Find similar folks on the left if you can to counter that strategy. It literally takes billions to do it.

  4. “(Hillary)Clinton is the all-but-certain Democratic candidate for president, but hardly anyone on the Republican side is laying a glove on her. The media is all over the Clinton Foundation for taking money — apparently legal, but perhaps not altogether ethical, money — from foreign countries while Hillary Clinton has presumably been preparing to run for president.

    And, meanwhile, the headline story continues to be that Republicans are all over Barack Obama, who can’t run again, for supposedly not loving America enough, or at all.”

    Setting aside for the moment Mr. Littwin’s definition of “all over the Clinton Foundation” does he honestly-or even dishonestly-believe if not for Rudy Giuliani’s comments on President Obama’s patriotism the Clinton Foundation would be a bigger mainstream media story? Please.

    Has Mr. Littwin written about the Clinton Foundation accepting money from foreign countries? Uh, no.

    Has it been mentioned in any of the Colorado Independent’s weekly High Noon discussions? Uh, no.

    But I’m sure Mr. Littwin will cover it soon after writing about the assassination of two New York City police officers, the vandalism of a memorial to fallen Denver police officers by those demonstrating against police violence and the death of an American women held captive by ISIS.

    But despite ignoring important and meaningful current events, Mr. Littwin did find the time to research, recycle, repeat and regurgitate a 2012 comment from Rep. Coffman. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Here’s how David Harsanyi, a former Denver Post columnist, views Mr. Giuliani’s comments. Mr. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and senior editor at The Federalist. His career is one of the few that have been on an upward trajectory since leaving the Post.

    “But the most irritating part of all the pearl-clutching about Giuliani’s remark, though, is the hypocrisy. Just today in Time we read: “Obama Claims GOP Rhetoric Could Help ISIS.” The president now argues that those who fail to follow his bizarre aversion to dealing with the reality of Islamic terrorism are aiding and legitimatizing enemies who burn innocent people alive. If that’s not questioning our patriotism (and morality), I’m not sure what is. And it’s not new. Democrats have made a nasty habit of framing all political opposition to progressive ideas as unpatriotic assaults on the aspirations of average Americans. For Democrats, patriotism means paying lots of taxes. One liberal after the next stood up at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and accused Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan of betting against America simply because they engaged in business abroad or made too much money or had different ideas about the welfare state.”

    “The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it had closed its investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and would not bring federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.”
    NBC News February 24, 2015

     “Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer (Darren Wilson) involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The federal investigation did not uncover any facts that differed significantly from the evidence made public by the authorities in Missouri late last year.” New York Times January 21, 2015

    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Wounded Warrior Project
    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

Comments are closed.