Even by their standards, The New York Post was tacky for Friday’s cover, which features a blindfolded President Obama saying, “Islamic terror? I just don’t see it.” To his credit, Obama is correct in his assertion that we shouldn’t refer to terrorist organizations like ISIS as “Islamic” given that doing so legitimizes the notion that the West is at war with Islam itself.
Former President George W. Bush virtually felt the same way. Yet, Obama’s thoughtful, nuanced take on the complicated issue of religious zealots bastardizing dogma to excuse terrorism resulted in conservatives responding in usual fashion: with hyperbole, cluelessness, and xenophobia.
That’s not surprising given the likes of Bill O’Reilly—apparently Brian Williams’ old war buddy—is out here calling for a Holy War with ISIS. When you are paid to pontificate and pander, it doesn’t pay to endorse reasonable thinking with a similar perspective.
Then, there is the greatest offender thus far, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who used the opportunity to embark on one of his favorite pastimes: race hustling. Politico reported on Giuliani questioning Obama’s love of country at a private group dinner centered on Wisconsin governor and likely GOP presidential candidate, Scott Walker.
“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.”
The comments do not scream racial on the surface, but there has been a longstanding attempt to portray Obama as other. By way of his middle name Hussein; his father being Muslim; the questioning of his birth certificate’s authenticity; his Blackness. Giuliani is very well aware that many on the right want to believe Obama is so far removed from “traditional America” (re: white standards) so his remarks perpetuate such suspicion.
In response to the criticism, Giuliani told the New York Times:
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”
Giuliani went on to cite former president Ronald Reagan, the de facto Santa Claus for many on the right. Giuliani also added, “What I don’t find with Obama — this will get me in more trouble again — is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.” This man has his nerve accusing a former constitutional law professor of not having any credible grasp of history.
In a separate interview with FOX News’ Megyn Kelly, Giuliani claimed to not be questioning Obama’s patriotism—a lie—but that he would prefer to hear Obama speak about American exceptionalism. “A lot of liberals don’t believe in American Exceptionalism,” Kelly noted, “but that doesn’t mean they don’t love America.”
Still not knowing when to give up, Giuliani invoked Obama’s maternal grandfather, who fought in World War II, and insinuated that he introduced Obama to communist ideas. What’s interesting about Giuliani using Obama’s family to make a political argument is that he of all people should know better. After all, Giuliani once defended his father as the “finest man” he has ever known despite him having spent time in prison after being convicted of armed robbery decades prior.
But this is exactly why Giuliani has not been elected to public office in several years and has as much chance of becoming a serious presidential contender as Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian do becoming BFFs. All he, and those like him on the right, know, is how to exploit prejudice for political gain even if that disavows what America is often sold as being: inclusive.
None of the aforementioned would tolerate phrasing like “Christian terrorists” or “Jewish terrorists,” so why is “Islamic terrorist” fair game?