Last week Rudy Giuliani caught some flak for suggesting that President Obama doesn't love America. Rather than admit, like Giuliani himself did before making the comment, that this was a horrible thing to say, the fine folks at Fox News have doubled down, offering "proof" that the president just doesn't love America as much as conservatives.
To no one's surprise, the man driving this clown car of desperation is Sean Hannity. On his Feb. 25 show Hannity devoted almost eight minutes of Fox News air time to convincing viewers that Barack Obama isn't a true patriot.
He starts the piece by showing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's response to Rudy Giuliani's comments. While Farrakhan's statements are ignorant and offensive, comparing Farrakhan with Giuliani is laughable. Giuliani is part of the establishment, as is evidenced by his time in office, his bids for Congress and the presidency, his speaking engagement at the Republican National Convention, his role as an "insider" for Fox News and his place in conservative lore as "America's mayor."
At best Farrakhan is an outsider when it comes to the Democratic establishment; however, most would consider him a fringe bomb thrower. Suggesting that Farrakhan's response to Giuliani somehow represents the vast majority of liberals tells you all you need to know about how seriously Hannity is about this topic.
Of course, recognizing how weak such an argument would be, Hannity then ran a montage of statements made by the president that supposedly confirm the president's disdain for the country he was twice elected to lead. These included comments such as:
"We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
"The struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life."
"There is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."
"Our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint but from our willingness to rush into military adventures."
Never mind the fact that there is plenty of tape showing the president extolling America's "goodness and greatness and generosity and sacrifice for the cause of liberty worldwide," and never mind that these are statements of fact, not some sort of hate speech. The problem here is not the president's words but the conservatives' insistence that recognizing our faults and attempting to do better is somehow a negative.
These are the same people who have multiple media outlets dedicated to telling American's just how bad the country is. These are the same people who believe that telling the blunt truth, no matter how hurtful, is the right thing to do. These are the same people who hate the "everyone gets a trophy mentality" because kids need to learn from their failures. Yet somehow every time the president is the one offering the message, these people throw all their beliefs out the window and feign outrage.
One wonders if these same conservatives were infuriated when Ronald Reagan said, "Many of us are unhappy about our ... diminishing prestige around the globe, about the weakness in our economy and national security that jeopardizes world peace, about our lack of strong, straight-forward leadership," or when he asked questions like "Is our nation stronger and more capable of leading the world toward peace and freedom, or is it weaker?", "Are you more confident that our economy will create productive work for our society, or are you less confident?" or "Are you convinced that we have earned the respect of the world and our allies, or has America's position across the globe diminished?"
Are these examples that Reagan didn't love America, or do they show a man identifying issues that require change?
Of course, no critique of Obama's love of country is complete without bringing up Michelle Obama's remark from 2008 stating that this was the first time in her adult life that she was really proud of her country. Despite showing the clip, Hannity still seems clueless as to its meaning. There are probably few who think this was a wise choice of words; however, Hannity's take that Michelle Obama is "not proud of World War II and America beating back fascism and Nazism and imperial Japan [and not] proud of walking on the Moon" is mind-boggling. Zero of these events happened in Michelle Obama's adult life. They are not covered by her statement. If you are going to skewer her for her words, then at least pay attention to the words she is saying.
Beyond that, the irony of using this quotation as proof that Barack Obama doesn't love the country while simultaneously defending Giuliani's statement with "he could have used different words" is just outstanding. Both Giuliani and Obama "clarified" their statements within days of making them. For Hannity to pretend one is a deeply held belief while the other is a simple misunderstanding is a clear slap in the face to Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" tagline.
Despite the fact that in less than eight minutes Hannity was able to prove himself as morally bankrupt, this treasure trove of slanted misinformation isn't even the worst part about the segment. No, the worst part is how much it exposes conservatives.
There is no shortage of issues that Sean Hannity and the two prominent Republicans he brought on his show, Bobby Jindal and Darrell Issa, could have discussed, yet they chose to wax poetic about their opinion of the president's patriotism.
Hating Barack Obama certainly paid off well in 2014, so it's no surprise that Republicans would look to replicate this success in 2016, but this tactic also tells you how little the Republican Party has to offer the country in terms of actual policy. They can't make the economy an issue, because most of the president's policies have worked. They've tried for years to tear down the Affordable Care Act; however, polls show Americans don't support the Republican repeal plan. The same is also true of the Republican position on immigration reform, marriage equality, military spending, abortion, taxing the rich, net neutrality, background checks for guns, climate change, and Medicare vouchers.
The reality is that Republicans really have no other choice than to stoop to character assassination, because if they are forced to run on actual ideas in 2016, they would not only lose the White House but Capitol Hill as well.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post erroneously indicated that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is sometimes called "the nation's governor." He is sometimes called "America's mayor." This post has been updated accordingly.