What Kind of Portrait of America Does Obama Paint?

by Jim Geraghty

Here’s the comment that has so many Obama fans furious with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

“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.”

Does Barack Obama not love Rudy Giuliani, the attendees of that dinner, or ‘this country’?

Let’s look at Obama’s four most recent public remarks.

Today, in his second address to the White House Summit on ‘Violent Extremism,’ the president suggested most Americans don’t personally know a Muslim and thus perceive them as dangerous and threatening:

I’d like to close by speaking very directly to a painful truth that’s part of the challenge that brings us here today.  In some of our countries, including the United States, Muslim communities are still small, relative to the entire population, and as a result, many people in our countries don’t always know personally of somebody who is Muslim.  So the image they get of Muslims or Islam is in the news.  And given the existing news cycle, that can give a very distorted impression. 

Yesterday, in a separate address to the summit, Obama suggested that U.S. law enforcement is abusing the Muslim community, that they unfairly target Muslim Americans, and that past outreach efforts by law enforcement have been in bad faith:

 I know some Muslim Americans have concerns about working with government, particularly law enforcement.  And their reluctance is rooted in the objection to certain practices where Muslim Americans feel they’ve been unfairly targeted. 

So, in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities.  Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith.  (Applause.)  Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance.  

On February 17, Obama suggested that critics of his immigration executive order are opposing those who are ‘American by any other name except for their legal papers’ and want to stop them from serving their country.

As we saw with the executive action that I took for DREAMers, people who have come here as young children and are American by any other name except for their legal papers, who want to serve this country, oftentimes want to go into the military or start businesses or in other ways contribute — I think the American people overwhelmingly recognize that to pretend like we are going to ship them off is unrealistic and not who we are.

On February 14, in his weekly address, Obama contended that the Republican Congress wants to deny American children a quality education – and for that matter, quality health care and child care:

At a time when we have to give every child, everywhere, a fair shot – this Congress would actually allow states to make even deeper cuts into school districts that need the most support, send even more money to some of the wealthiest school districts in America, and turn back the clock to a time when too many students were left behind in failing schools.

Denying a quality education to the children of working families is as wrong as denying health care or child care to working families.  We are better than this.

Every Obama speech has a villain, and that villain is often other Americans who disagree with the president. He doesn’t hesitate to paint a very dark picture of the country he leads: citizens who are xenophobic and paranoid about Muslims, abusive police forces unfairly focusing on Muslim communities, a public eager to forcibly deport good Americans who just want to serve their country, and lawmakers determined to deny good education to children.

Maybe Giuliani’s language is a bit overwrought or hyperbolic, but is it really that much overwrought or hyperbolic than Obama’s description of Americans who disagree with his policies? And if Obama consistently describes so many Americans as so prejudiced and mean-spirited… is Guiliani’s conclusion really that outlandish?

The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.