We’re still nearly two years from having a new president in the White House (barring a very unlikely impeachment or some other act of God) but campaigning for the 2016 election is, of course, already well under way. And it seems that some of the candidates are already getting desperate to stay relevant in the race. That brings us to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani experienced a fleeting return to the headlines this week after he lit into President Obama in very personal manner. He did not use the word “traitor,” but he might as well have. “I do not believe that this president loves America,” he said. “He doesn’t love you. He doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up.”
Needless to say, a firestorm of criticism erupted after his remarks went viral. After a few days of sort-of standing by his statement, the mayor tried to retreat gracefully saying Obama is “a patriot I’m sure” and that he only meant that Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t highlight “American exceptionalism” the way past presidents have done.
Taking such a hard line might have helped him with the more conservative wing in the GOP, but it’s likely turned off people in the middle of the political spectrum whose votes end up deciding national elections. His remote chance of ever being president is probably gone now. But regardless of the political ramifications, were his comments accurate? Do we have a president in office who doesn’t love his country?
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That’s a very subjective question and no one can get inside of anyone else’s head to determine who or what that person loves and does not love. The best we can do is judge them by their actions, as actions usually betray what is in our heart.
It is certainly true that this president doesn’t beat the “American exceptionalism” drum the way past presidents have done. In fact I would have to say he has tried to project an attitude that I have never seen a president attempt before. We’ll call it “American humility.”
Our current president has been quick to point out our country’s imperfections and to note that we have at times been the cause of our own problems. Generally, humility is a good quality to display, but when you are the president of the most powerful country in the world you have to be careful of how and when you display it.
A president is like a coach and we are all his team. He needs to offer correction and praise at the right time and in the right measure. Not many people are really good at that, and I’m afraid President Obama isn’t good at it either. But I don’t think rhetoric is our president’s biggest problem. Deeds are much more important than words.
A real measure of a president, and the country he works for, is what we as a nation accomplish or fail to accomplish while he is in office. And that’s where the president is truly failing as a leader, especially when it comes to our place on the world stage.
President Obama’s foreign policy has from the beginning of his first term been about making us a much less active player in foreign conflicts. It was a seductive idea, as many Americans were disillusioned with thought of having our troops on foreign soil after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to light the fire of freedom in the Middle East as President George W. Bush and his neocon advisers had hoped. So Obama focused on ending those wars and avoiding any involvement in new conflicts. And we have seen what happens when America takes such a passive role -- people with lots of ambition and no respect for human rights have taken the opportunity to fill the void that was left behind.
I believe President Obama does love America. But he clearly never had the experience or temperament to do the job we elected him to do.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.