Paul Kattenburg, a State Department analyst during the summer of 1963, urged that America withdraw from Vietnam. Both Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara immediately marginalized him. If Rudolph Giuliani were riding high in the Fox News saddle back then, Kattenburg would certainly have been dumped into his "doesn't love America" category.
Kattenburg observed that America is an "idea country," not a "people country" — not the "Fatherland" nor the "Motherland." To fill a kind of psychic hole, we Americans tend to romanticize our ethnic roots. Irish-Americans still tear up when they watch, for the umpteenth time, The Quiet Man — a sappy John Wayne movie that makes my Irish friend from north Dublin "want to barf."
Have you ever heard an American use the term "homeland?" I haven't. When asked, we typically respond with "I'm an American," or maybe even "I'm from New York" or L.A. — you needn't even mention the country. It's true that in the American experience, it's the ideas that really matter — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. And our bag of ideas is full of "protest" and "criticism," both of which do battle with loudly asserted patriotism, sometimes imposed in the form of that simpleminded "America, love it or leave it" brand of jingoism.
So just what "American ideas" does President Obama not subscribe to? Introducing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to a roomful of rich, would-be donors last month, Giuliani alludes and deflects — he says to his fat-cat audience (the same profile who took Mitt Romney right out the race) that "Obama wasn't brought up like us." He dismisses charges of racism by pointing out that "Obama's mother was white" — an asinine line that only digs him in deeper. Then he heads back to "Obama isn't sufficiently patriotic." Giuliani has also called the twice-elected President of the United States a moron, promising his right-wing audience, aka "the base," that he would go anywhere and fight anyone and — then, his punch line — "I wouldn't give a damn what the President said."
Really? Enter Wayne Barrett, a longtime New York journalist and author of two books on Rudolph Giuliani. He reports that during the Vietnam years, our superpatriot managed to arrange for four draft deferments, " ...even getting a federal judge he was clerking for to write a letter creating a special exemption for him." This puts Rudy into second place on our moralizing, right-wing draft-dodger list, right behind our all-time champion, Chicken Hawk Dick Cheney, who had five.
Let's take a closer look at the line "Obama wasn't brought up like us." Here's where it gets really good, because Giuliani again is correct — Obama wasn't brought up like him. Giuliani's father and five uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II, whereas Obama's grandfather and uncle both served; his uncle even helped liberate Buchenwald.
Growing-up years? Rudy's correct again. His hero and role model was his father, an acknowledgement that begs the question: Was that before or after Harold Giuliani did time in Sing Sing prison "for holding up a Harlem milkman and was a bat-wielding enforcer for a loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by his uncle."
Then there are Rudy's marriages, which further make his point that Obama isn't like him. First, Rudy marries his second cousin, then divorces her because she was his cousin, which he knew when he married her. Wife No. 2 discovers that she is about to be dumped when Rudy announces just that at a press conference. Ouch. Then we come to wife No. 3, whom Rudy was seeing before he dumped wife No. 2 — as mayor, he made 11 trips to Long Island to see her, accompanied by police bodyguards. Public cost? About $3,000 per trip.
And he asks us to compare this with Barack and Michelle Obama? It's like The Godfather meets Father Knows Best.
But as I sift through Barrett's treasure trove of Giuliani-related hypocrisy, I find myself dealing with feelings of abandonment. Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show — and just before the 2016 campaign begins. The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum puts it best: Stewart... "revived the notion that satire might be an expression of anger or sadness, the product of high standards, not a nihilistic game for know-it-alls."
You see, Stewart lives in a world defined by our American ideas and ideals, with so many unfulfilled. He's a guy Giuliani would say "doesn't love America." To cause us to reflect on our often self-created theater of the absurd, Stewart has deftly played off foils — all those overmatched, pretentious hacks like Rudy Giuliani. The realization that we'll have to put up with all the Giulianis out there in right-wing land? In an election year? Without Jon Stewart? That's a dismal prospect, indeed — worse even than when Johnny Carson retired back in 1992. ♦