How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

It ought to go without saying: Vicious political rhetoric demands vigorous response

The comments former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made regarding President Barack Obama's patriotism at a reception for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at New York's 21 Club were outrageous.

"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 told the gathering. "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."

While his follow-up op-ed in The Wall Street Journal was viewed by some as an attempt to "walk back" from his original controversial comments, his clarification was in some ways even more insulting than his original inflammatory language.

Giuliani wrote: "My blunt language suggesting that the President doesn't love America notwithstanding, I didn't intend to question President Obama's motives or the content of his heart. ... Let me explain. ... Irrespective of what a president may think or feel, his inability or disinclination to emphasize what is right with America can hamstring our success as a nation. This is particularly true when a president is seen, as President Obama is, as criticizing his country more than other presidents have done."

Mayor Giuliani's comments epitomize what is wrong with politics in America today. It is far too personally nasty. It should be out of bounds to question a president's patriotism or loyalty without presenting irrefutable evidence that he has acted willfully in a manner detrimental to the interests of our nation.

It is fine for the opposition party to civilly question the president's policies, positions or philosophy. In fact, constructive criticism is a good thing. It is OK to question the president's leadership, but not his love of or loyalty to America.

The failure of the majority of Republican candidates for president to sharply repudiate Mayor Giuliani's insulting comments is why the Republican Party has little chance of defeating a candidate with marked flaws like Hillary Clinton. The instant response, which would have been in line with the thinking of mainstream America, should have been to tell Mayor Giuliani that he was going down a very slippery slope in questioning the president's patriotism and he should immediately apologize to him. Not a single Republican candidate nor any prominent party leaders called on Mayor Giuliani to issue a formal apology; neither did they chide him for questioning our president's love of America.

Instead, what we got was equivocation and subterfuge. When asked if he agreed with Mr. Giuliani's comments the morning after they were made, Gov. Walker said, "The mayor can speak for himself." Later on, he told the Associated Press that he doesn't know whether Mr. Obama truly loves this country: "You should ask the president what he thinks about America." He further added: "I've never asked him, so I don't know."

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana did not criticize Giuliani; instead, his official statement was: "The gist of what Mayor Giuliani said – that the president has shown himself to be completely unable to speak the truth about the nature of the threats from these ISIS terrorists – is true." Former New York Gov. George Pataki, a long-shot candidate, acknowledged the comments were wrong, but defended them by saying, "Rudy and I saw the horrible consequences of looking the other way because radical Islamic terror was thousands of miles across the world." In the same vein, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calf.) said that people should thank Giuliani for his contribution to the public debate about national security.

Sen. Marco Rubio was the most forceful in defending the president by saying that there's "no doubt" Mr. Obama loves America. Rand Paul and Jeb Bush both indicated that, while they are not always supportive of the president's policies, they do not question his motives. Not surprisingly, there was no comment forthcoming from Gov. Chris Christie on Giuliani's intemperate remarks.

Some would take the view that Giuliani's comments were so off the wall as not to warrant comment. Not me. Some comments are so outrageous that they must be responded to forcefully and unequivocally. Mayor Giuliani's comments labeling president Obama un-American and Rep. Chris Smith's anti-gay comments made during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on the subject of human rights in Nigeria are examples of comments that we should not be silent about.

Rep. Smith said: "As you know, there are fundamental differences in the United States over the whole LGBT issue. I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights. Others have a different view and I certainly respect them."

Rep. Smith's position is abhorrent, as it implies there is a difference between the rights of LGBT individuals and the rights of other human beings. His comments serve to dehumanize the LGBT community and reflect a failure to understand that when we deny human rights to a specific group of people, we are tacitly opening the door to persecution and worse. It is not acceptable to discuss LGBT rights as separate from human rights.

Mayor Giuliani and Rep. Smith should keep in mind their words carry weight because of the elected position they held, or hold. Therefore, they should be extremely mindful of what they say and the implications of their words.