WASHINGTON – Republicans had better divert some of their campaign cash toward finding a cure for Obama Derangement Syndrome. If they don’t, their nemesis will beat them in a third consecutive presidential contest – without, of course, actually being on the ballot.
GOP power brokers and potential candidates surely realize that President Barack Obama is ineligible to run in 2016. Yet they seem unable to get over the fact that he won in 2008 and 2012. It’s as if they are more interested in vainly trying to rewrite history than attempting to lay out a vision for the future.
Obama Derangement Syndrome is characterized by feverish delirium. The Republican Party suffered an episode last week when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani began speaking in tongues about Obama’s patriotism.
“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. “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.”
This is obviously a nonsensical thing to say about a man who was elected president twice and has served as commander in chief for more than six years. Pressed to explain himself, Giuliani ranted and raved for several days about Obama’s upbringing, made demonstrably false claims about the president’s supposed denial of American exceptionalism, insisted that “I said exactly what I wanted to say” – and then finally issued a non-retraction retraction in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“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,” Giuliani wrote. But of course he did intend to question Obama’s motives, heart, patriotism and legitimacy, albeit in a self-destructive, laughingstock kind of way.
I speak as a sufferer from Bush Derangement Syndrome eight years ago who recovered by facing reality.
Giuliani can perhaps be dismissed; his future in presidential politics is as bleak as his past, which consists of one spectacularly unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination. But if he was speaking as the party’s id, surely Republicans who consider themselves in the mix for 2016 would play the role of superego and tamp down such baser instincts. Right?
Wrong. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – a guest at the dinner where Giuliani had his eruption – refused to repudiate the offending remarks. “The mayor can speak for himself,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on whether, what the president thinks or not. … I’ll tell you I love America, and I think there are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent and everyone in between, who love this country.”
Walker, who is on a roll lately in terms of self-embarrassment, wasn’t finished. Asked if he believes Obama is a Christian, Walker responded, “I don’t know.” A spokeswoman later clarified that what the governor meant to say was yes, of course he knows the president is a Christian; Walker declined to respond because it was a “gotcha” question. Which it wouldn’t have been, if Walker had given that answer in the first place.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another 2016 hopeful, volunteered that “the gist” of what Giuliani said “is true.” Later, Jindal went further and declared: “I hate to say this, but we have a president right now who is not qualified to be our commander in chief.”
It’s true that Generalissimo Jindal is a long shot to win the nomination. But most other potential GOP candidates were either silent or didn’t give a direct answer. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said it was a mistake to question Obama’s motives. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee offered no opinion. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that “I think the president in his mind loves this country.”
Only Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was bold enough to say there is “no doubt” that the president of the United States does, in fact, love the United States. Good for him.
Giuliani’s burst of nonsense is important because it speaks to the Republican Party’s mindset. If the party is going to contend for the White House, it first has to fully acknowledge and accept that it lost the last two presidential elections. The nation voted twice for Obama and his policies. Deal with it.
Republicans need to abandon the fantasy that there’s some sort of grand deception underlying the Obama presidency. They’re only deceiving themselves.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.