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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Patriotism: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Sometimes, it seems as though the rhetoric of the Right can't get any worse.  And then it does!  We have run head-long into the former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who has never had difficulty with saying something that shouldn't be said.  Here he is most recently, quoted from Daily KOS: 
"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “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.” 
 
Then, he decided to double-down on his outrageous statement by going on “Fox and Friends” within a few days saying he more often hears Obama criticize America than celebrate it.  
 
CNN.com added the following quotes from Giuliani: 

“Giuliani… insisted that Obama doesn't love the United States because he "doesn't express a great love of this country" and criticizes the United States at home and abroad, an outlook on the U.S. that Giuliani tied to Obama's upbringing. 
"President Obama was brought up in an atmosphere in which he was taught to be a critic of America," Giuliani said in a phone interview with CNN. "That is a distinction with prior American presidents." 

But still, Obama is patriotic even if he doesn't love America, Giuliani said, pointing out that "there have been an awful lot of patriots who were critics." 
Giuliani's definition of a patriot? "Someone who is dedicated to the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and the U.S. Constitution.”  And while the former mayor said he believes Obama is committed to those principles and the constitution, he said he didn't "detect" a love of country in Obama and "honestly" doesn't know whether Obama does. "Honestly, I don't and you don't know what he truly believes. I'm talking about the way that he expresses himself. I can't tell you what's within his heart," Giuliani said. 

Maybe Obama doesn't have "as romantic a view" of the United States as past presidents, Giuliani suggested.  As he did at the dinner on Wednesday, Giuliani pointed to the love former presidents like Ronald Reagan who saw America's problems as the "footnotes." Obama, Giuliani said, sees American problems as "the headline." 
 
In explaining the role of Obama's education in his love for America, Giuliani revived old attacks used against Obama during his two presidential campaigns regarding his ties to socialists like Saul Alinsky.
He also revived criticism of Obama's time attending Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church, the pastor who infamously said "God Damn America.  "The fact that he remained in Rev. Wright's church for 17 years...If you had deep in your heart a love of America you would have quit if the minister said something like that," Giuliani said. 

"There's a real attempt to make it a racial criticism. It has nothing to do with race," Giuliani said, pointing out that "he was brought up by the way by a white mother and white grandparents."

 We could spend a lot of time arguing over whether or not Giuliani’s remarks have anything to do with racial criticism or bias.  I think they do; he believes they don’t.  What’s clear is that he mentions old data about Obama’s origins, being brought up by a white parent and white grandparents, attending white schools, having an association with a black pastor who criticized America, and having an alien upbringing and attitude toward America.  However, for the moment, it seems futile to engage in a debate about this topic. 

Instead, I want to raise another issue for your consideration. For his own purposes, Giuliani has tried to say that Obama is a patriot but not a lover of America.  But, Rudy’s  ”America” is a personal construct, all based on what Giuliani believes.  America is more than that, of course.  It is a nation made up of people: citizens, voters, immigrants, non-citizens, human beings.  What Giuliani, and other ‘critics’ miss is that President Obama has made it a mission of his two-term presidency to serve the people; to make sure that he acts on behalf of individuals, of real people with real needs and real freedoms, as well as real responsibilities.

In my estimation, the President’s concept of love for America is a demonstration of love, respect and meaningful action on behalf of people.  “America” is to him The People.  Giuliani's definition of patriotism? "Someone who is dedicated to the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the U.S. Constitution.”  I’m sorry:  “America” equates to three principles and a written document?  No mention of citizens or people from Mr. Giuliani.  I’ll take President Obama’s love of America through advocacy for people, the citizens and inhabitants of this nation.

So Giuliani has ultimately made of patriotism or ‘love of America’ a construct of impersonal principles and the articles of an all-important document.  He approached policing of NYC in much the same way as he instituted a profiling of certain people and a ‘stop and frisk’ policy all in support of one of those principles defined by Republicans as Law and Order.  And guess what, as with any governing principle, this one gets perverted and twisted into actions that are contrary to protecting the needs, safety and freedom of all citizens.  Omigosh, there’s one of those criticisms that Republicans claim is un-American, or at least showing lack of love for America.  They would shut down all criticism if they could. 
 
Every principle and document that underlies the concept of America also has the potential to be corrupted and used wrongly.  That is why criticism in and of America is never-ending: simply because perversion of principles and values by certain individuals and groups is never-ending.  In order to preserve our representative democracy and its values and freedoms, American citizens must, as a part of their duty, criticize perversion of our constitutional principles and values.  Those critics are not non-lovers of America or of her citizens.  In fact, they are patriots for they know that American values must be protected and enhanced by her citizens acting to preserve her mission and essence.  

It would help immensely if Giuliani as self-appointed critic would explain just exactly what principle or value is being corrupted by the President in a way that actually shows a lack of love for American people.  Unfortunately, Giuliani has some trouble with being specific or with putting two or more cogent thoughts together.  (Remember that remark from Joe Biden: “Rudy Giuliani — there's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” October 30, 2007 MSNBC Democratic Debate) 

Here are some things the President has done to show his love for Americans (thereby for America), based on a much larger list at http://pleasecutthecrap.com:
 
1.       Because of his fight to produce a health care reform act that would adequately insure many citizens, there are now over 11 million people enrolled who before were under-insured or uninsured.  Obama Cares! And this unequivocally demonstrates his love for America and her citizens. Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, inflation in the healthcare sector dropped to its lowest point in 50 years.  http://on.wsj.com/1E6cYjF
2.      He also pushed numerous acts that stimulated our economy and brought us back from the precipice of Bush’s Great Recession.  Many people have benefitted from this turn-a-round because of the millions of jobs created under this President’s leadership.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by 3.5%.  (http://reut.rs/i46CEE). 
3.       Not only did he complete the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, he also leaned on the banks and others, and recovered virtually all of the bail-out money. (http://1.usa.gov/eA5jVShttp://bit.ly/eCNrD6).
4.       He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan. (http://1.usa.gov/goy6zl). He also signed the Democratic-sponsored Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures.
5.       Along with Democrats, and almost no Republicans, implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs.
6.       Created a climate in which there have been 55 consecutive months of job growth, totaling more than 10 million jobs, which is roughly 10,000,000 more jobs than Bush created in eight years.   http://1.usa.gov/1vBDeyC.  This is also the longest stretch of private-sector job growth in US history. http://wapo.st/1w3J8Zy
7.       Led the country to 64 consecutive months of economic expansion, eclipsing Reagan’s record, by far.  http://onforb.es/1sxJ2by
8.       Signed the Democratic-sponsored Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices. http://1.usa.gov/gIaNcS
9.       Increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect. http://bit.ly/f77aOw
10.   Through the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery.   http://bit.ly/dZgXXwhttp://bit.ly/gORYfL
11.   Initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses. http://1.usa.gov/eu0u0b
12.   Along with Congressional Democrats, provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession. http://bit.ly/g0IKWR
13.   Oversaw a reduction in the dollar amount of the federal budget deficit by two-thirds since taking office. http://bit.ly/1xKMmjY
14.   Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, leading the way to a national increase. http://wapo.st/1iaU5kd
15.   Established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities.  http://www.serve.gov
16.   Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.  http://1.usa.gov/bd1RTq
17.   Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.  http://bit.ly/fnTayj
18.   Oversaw and then signed a Democratic bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.  http://thedc.com/gxkCtP
19.   Along with Congressional Democrats, advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.  http://bit.ly/gsMSJ7
20.   Pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie in order to be eligible to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping.  http://bit.ly/fdahuHhttp://bit.ly/mZV4Pz
21.   Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.  http://1.usa.gov/g2RLCj
22.   Wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families. http://bit.ly/e1puTkhttp://1.usa.gov/rFfqMM
23.   Signed the Democratic-sponsored Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.   http://bit.ly/fT3Cxg
24.   Signed two executive orders that mirror provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act, because the GOP Congress refuses to pass it. It makes it possible for employees to talk about their salaries without retaliation, and orders salary data collection. These measures will make it harder for employers to pay women less.   http://huff.to/1nwVOWf
25.   Appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. http://1.usa.gov/fi5IY0
26.   Established the White House Council of Native American Affairs, to improve government-to-government relations with Native American nations. http://1.usa.gov/1cIEeEv
27.   Proposed new HUD rules that would enhance Fair Housing Laws, to give HUD and other enforcement agencies more teeth in enforcing them. http://bit.ly/1qkz4uQ
28.   Ordered a review of capital punishment policies after several botched executions. http://nyti.ms/RDJp58
29.   The Obama Department of Justice made significant reductions in drug sentencing guidelines for current prisoners, thus releasing thousands from US prisons. This is the first step in 30 years toward reducing the US prison population, which is the highest in the world, made worse by unjust and inflated incarceration of young men of color. http://n.pr/1mWBLkM
30.   Established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba
31.   Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto praised President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as “very intelligent” and “an act of justice.”
“I have made acknowledgement of the very intelligent and audacious decision of your administration regarding the executive action for immigration, which is of course an act of justice for people who arrive from other parts of the world but are now part of the U.S. community,”
We do hear too often about “illegals” especially from Republicans, but it is important not to forget that how we treat that question determines how our “principles” play in other countries.
32.   Along with Congressional Democrats, supported and signed Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans. http://1.usa.gov/fN4ur1
33.   Along with Congressional Democrats, ushered through largest spending increase in 30 years for Department of Veterans Affairs, with money to go to improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities.    http://1.usa.gov/gY8O3x
 
Such changes, initiatives and actions go much further, most unknown to the majority of voters because they have not been sufficiently publicized (you can check out the entire list at http://pleasecutthecrap.com/obama-accomplishments.)

Meanwhile, our intrepid Mayor, both during and after 9/11, seemed to have some trouble concentrating on people rather than on himself and his part in 9/11.  We have merely to review some of his own quotes:
 “The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirit, instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom (Dedication for the exhibit "After September 11: Images from Ground Zero." 31 December 2001).  No mention of the people involved – just principles.

 “I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was there guiding things. I was there bringing people there. But I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them.” (While campaigning in Cincinnati, as quoted in The New York Times 11 August 2007).  Apparently, 9/11 was all about Rudy

"Aspiring dictators sometimes win elections, and elected leaders sometimes govern badly and threaten their neighbors. … History demonstrates that democracy usually follows good governance (emphasis added), not the reverse." As quoted in "Giuliani: Too much stress on two-state plan" at Jewish Telegraph Agency (15 August 2007).  Sounds to me like a criticism of America…


And guess what?  Nothing has changed.  According to MSNBC, not invited to a private party for Scott Walker and not originally on the speaker list, Rudy inserted himself into the midst of it all and uttered words that garnered much publicity for him; very little for Scott Walker.  Good old Rudy; he’s such a patriot…!  Here are a few quotes attributed to others on the topic of Giuliani as “patriot” or icon:
 
“Rudy Giuliani is a true American hero, and we know this because he does all the things we expect of heroes these days -- like make $16 million a year, and lobby for Hugo Ch├ívez and Rupert Murdoch, and promote wars without ever having served in the military, and hire a lawyer to call his second wife a "stuck pig," and organize absurd, grandstanding pogroms against minor foreign artists, and generally drift through life being a shameless opportunist with an outsize ego who doesn't even bother to conceal   the fact that he's had a (yearning) for the presidency since he was in diapers. In the media age, we can't have a hero humble enough to actually be one; what is needed is a tireless scoundrel, a cad willing to pose all day long for photos, who'll accept $100,000 to talk about heroism for an hour, who has the balls to take a $2.7 million advance to write a book about himself called Leadership. That's Rudy Giuliani. Our hero. And a perfect choice to uphold the legacy of George W. Bush.” (Matt Taibbi, May 31, 2007).

“Among other things, it seems Rudy's a bit of a fibber. Says one thing once, then denies it a few hours later, apparently not familiar with the concept of audio and video recordings.” (Josh Marshall, November 2, 2007.)  First Rudy says President Obama doesn’t love America, then within a day says Obama is a patriot.  Can that be cogent thinking when one concept contradicts the other?

 “He is a small man in search of a balcony.” (Jimmy Breslin, quoted by Paul Slansky in "'Giuliani Time!': The Rudy Quiz", The New Yorker, December 17, 2007)

“[He] didn't bring us together, our pain brought us together... “(Al Sharpton, quoted by Paul Slansky in "'Giuliani Time!’ The Rudy Quiz", The New Yorker, December 17, 2007)

And a much stronger condemnation of Rudy’s lying, posturing, and actions relative to 9/11 that help no one but himself is found at http://www.villagevoice.com/2007-07-31/news/rudy-giuliani-s-five-big-lies-about-9-11/full/. 


"The mayor had also done nothing to make the radios interoperable—which would have enabled the police and firefighters to communicate across departmental lines—despite having received a 1995 federal waiver granting the city the additional radio frequencies to make that possible. That meant the fire chiefs had no idea that police helicopters had anticipated the partial collapse of both towers long before they fell. Though he collected $250 million in tax surcharges on phone use to improve the 911 system, he diverted this emergency funding for other uses, and the 911 dispatchers were an utter disaster that day, telling victims to stay where they were long after the fire chiefs had ordered an evacuation, which potentially sealed the fates of hundreds. And, despite the transparent lessons of 1993, Giuliani never established any protocols for rooftop or elevator rescues in high-rises, or even a strategy for bringing the impaired and injured out—all costly failings on 9/11. But perhaps the best evidence of the Giuliani administration's lack of readiness was that no one at its top levels had a top-secret security clearance on 9/11.”

"A Times editorial concluded in May that the Giuliani administration "failed in its duty to protect the workers at Ground Zero," faulting its "emphasis on a speedy cleanup" and its unwillingness "to insist that all emergency personnel and construction workers wear respirators." John Odermatt, a former OEM director working at the campaign, couldn't tell the  Times whether Giuliani had lobbied Congress on behalf of sick workers, nor could anyone at the campaign offer any evidence that Giuliani had ever, while earning millions at his new 9/11 consulting business in recent years, tried to secure federal funds for responders.” 

 This assessment is basically reiterated by Alternet.org which also introduces its own assessment of Giuliani and his consulting firm, with the following:
“The most valuable commodity the new company had to sell was not management expertise but the aura of America's Mayor -- the man whose cool-headed 9/11 leadership had taken on mythic proportions. While Giuliani's first term as mayor brought him renown as a crime fighter who made New York livable again, his second term was a slowly escalating disaster before 9/11. The city, which admired his feisty stubbornness when the enemies were drug dealers and cop killers, had grown tired of a seemingly endless series of political catfights with school chancellors, black neighborhoods, museums, rival politicians and even hot-dog vendors. And, as would become clear later, Giuliani had allowed the city to meet the disaster unprepared in myriad ways, ignoring the well-noted lessons of the first attack on the towers, which occurred less than a year before he became mayor.”

 Alternet.org tells some of the story of how the former Mayor, who touts himself as a patriot, used his 9/11 experience to make himself millions of dollars, while basically ignoring the needs of others (read all about it at http://www.alternet.org/story/41443/why_rudy_giuliani_can%27t_stop_cashing_in_on_9_11/)
 
So, let us be clear:

§  Giuliani fails to define what he means by ‘America,’ although he does attempt to define patriotism which falls short.  In both cases, he uses vague terms to represent complicated definitions and he leaves out the very basic ingredient of America: her People.

§  Giuliani constructed a false image of ‘not loving America’ and indicates that he just doesn’t ‘feel’ from his speeches that the President expresses a love of America in the way that former Presidents have done. Where have you been, Mr. Mayor? In almost every speech he makes, the President talks about American principles and values, and about the needs and responsibilities of her people.  In fact, in my experience of hearing the speeches of presidents all the way back to FDR, I cannot remember anyone more dedicated to elaborating on democratic values and principles than this President. 

§  It is very interesting that apparently Giuliani seems to think that because this African-American President was raised by a white parent and grandparents, it somehow reduces or nullifies racial criticism and bias.  It does not.  The whiteness of his mother and her parents does not erase the blackness of his skin.  As he has indicated, this President has experienced the same old bigoted reactions of white people to his color.  He has heard car door locks slam closed as he approached cars driven by white drivers, and has been followed in stores by white personnel.  As President he has had to endure all those remarks like Giuliani’s that endeavor to paint him as some sort of alien – outside the mainstream of American (mostly white) society.

In light of all that has been visited upon people of color in this society (read the overwhelming report on Lynching at DailyKos.com if you want to understand something of the burden of fear, lawlessness and recrimination imposed upon Black people in our nation), we might expect African-American citizens, including this President, to be less patriotic, or at least more ambivalent toward our government and officials.  But that is not the reality.   Black folks continue to vote in large numbers, serve in the armed forces in large numbers, work in government agencies, non-profits and volunteer roles that serve the public in large numbers, besides contributing to charitable enterprises, especially faith communities, in large numbers.  Having worked in a community action agency, and as the Director of large state-wide service programs for seniors with low incomes, I have been privileged to serve with men and women of color whose dedication and advocacy for the welfare of people with special challenges has been an inspiration and blessing that will last for a lifetime.

In light of the unjust criticisms and indignities that have been thrown at this President, and in light of America’s troubled history of race relations, it is all the more remarkable to me that this President has always kept his cool and maintained a love for all the citizens of our country.  After all the unjust and fabricated criticisms, denigrations and non-cooperation that this President has experienced, he still works every day for the advancement of the welfare of all members of this society.   That is true patriotism, and that is love for country and all its people that is unsurpassed!

§  ACTIONS speak LOUDER than words.  Love of America is demonstrated by what you do, not necessarily by what you say.  In that respect, President Obama wins every time over this epitome of a self-aggrandizer named Rudy Giuliani.  The latter has no right or standing or unblemished record strong enough to call anyone a non-lover of America. 

§  And, after all is said and done, there is that last remnant of graciousness to consider: respect for the office of President of the United States.  Disagreement, debate and even strong criticism of policy, procedure and programs is fair game in this society.  Veiled or open attacks upon the origins, race, religion and “inward thoughts” of the holder of the office are out-of-bounds.  And yet, Giuliani continues to run his mouth in this most despicable manner.  Too bad some Republican would-be presidential candidates have supported his remarks and his attitude, instead of standing for informed and well-thought-out discussions of policy and legislation. They must share the shame of Giuliani’s misguided rhetoric.

Fortunately, President Obama continues to stand above all the constructed cheap shots and criticisms from Republicans with a dignity and respectfulness that befits a President of the United States whose record of accomplishments for the People of America will be hard to match in the future.   Thank you, Mr. President, for your love for America demonstrated by your dedication to positive actions taken for the welfare and enhancement of all the People of this country and of others throughout the world.