Rudy Giuliani lied. Let's start with that. After the heinous murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos a week ago, Giuliani spewed the following bit of hate about President Obama: "We've had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police."
For the record, the president did absolutely no such thing. If you want the details of what he has actually said about law enforcement officers over the past four months -- i.e., since Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri -- Politifact and the Washington Post's Fact Checker have compiled them as part of their respective evaluations of Giuliani's claim (the WaPo's article also includes more, similar statements by Giuliani about Obama and the police, made after the initial one cited above). Politifact found the claim to be a "pants on fire" lie, while the WaPo gave it four (out of a possible four) Pinocchios. As I said, Rudy Giuliani lied.
But of course it's about much more than just the lie, it's about the kind of race-baiting lie he told, and how it fits into an eight-year-long campaign by the right to draw on the worst fears of white Americans about a black president, in particular a liberal black president. You see, Giuliani's comments about the police killings weren't even the worst ones uttered. Among others, Ex. Rep. Joe Walsh accused Obama of having "blood on his hands." Erick Erickson said the president has "created a situation where Americans cheer police officers being gunned down."
As egregiously wrong as these are, I want to focus now on some remarks made by Rush Limbaugh that didn't get, as far as I can tell, any broader media coverage, but which were heard by his 12.5 million listeners (he's still got the biggest talk radio audience out there). What Giuliani only implied, Rush came right out and said -- after first echoing the point that the president has "blood on his hands" and placing his picture next to that of Al Sharpton just below that statement on his website's show transcript:
We are all headed in an accelerated pace for anarchy. That is where all of this is headed. The primary agents of this anarchy are militant Islamists, militant civil rights coalition types, the New Black Panther Party and ancillaries. And who are their enablers? The Democrat Party and the American left, from college professors to pop culture false idols to elected Democrats, and of course the media, the left has and is, I believe -- and I really believe this, and I'm not using a single word for exaggeration purposes -- I really believe that college professors, these pop culture false idols, elected Democrats, the media, are literally making their followers, i.e., base voters, insane with rage and anger. I don't think there is any other conclusion.
No, Rush is not exaggerating. This is exactly what is behind the statements -- as hateful as they were on their face -- made by Giuliani. And notice what Limbaugh has done here, building on Giuliani's demonstrably false accusation that the president has been telling people to hate the police. He hits on racial boogeymen like the New Black Panther Party, a teeny-tiny organization (which the Southern Poverty Law Center has defined as a hate group) about which the right has long stoked anxiety among whites. But Rush also connects the New Black Panthers to civil rights activists (not to mention militant Islamists, triggering a whole other set of fears), and says that elected Democrats -- led by the chief elected Democrat -- have been "enabling" them and pushing our country into "anarchy." Oh, and as a college professor myself I'm proud to note that he mentioned us twice. Finally, since this is a race-based, "civil rights"-based anarchy, Rush's listeners know that he's talking about the thing he's talked about so many times before: a race war.
This is by no means the first time Limbaugh has invoked the specter of race war. Just after the president was inaugurated a second time, in January 2013, he declared: "We're in the midst here of designed class and race wars," and this was only a week after he claimed that Louis Farrakhan was "in preparation for a race war." Rush also talked on July 30, 2009, about how the media were promoting a "race war."
But Limbaugh doesn't have to use the words race war to make his listeners afraid of big, bad, black Barack Obama and his radical, militant allies. In my book about President Obama and American national identity, I examine numerous examples where Rush (and other right wingers) practiced race-baiting. I've shared what I then called his most egregious example here on Daily Kos before (although what he said last week certainly gives this one a run for it's money), but I want to cite it again here because it ties together all the hateful things -- starting with the remarks by Rudy Giuliani -- said about the president (not to mention Eric Holder and Bill de Blasio) since the murder of NYPD Officers Liu and Ramos. This is from my book:
Limbaugh summarized this perspective on June 4, 2009, in one of the most pernicious formulations heard from a major media voice since Obama became a national figure--one that could have no purpose but to sow the toxic combination of hatred and fear among white members of his audience and pit Americans against one another along ethnic lines: "The days of them not having any power are over, and they are angry. And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That's what Obama's about, gang. He's angry, he's gonna cut this country down to size, he's gonna make it pay for all the multicultural mistakes that it has made, its mistreatment of minorities."
In this brief, vitriol-laden rant, Limbaugh defined Obama and his nonwhite supporters ("they") as anti-American and angry, and set their interests in opposition to those of whites, whose interests he defined as in line with those of America. It's Obama and his people vs. America. Moreover, Limbaugh insinuated or perhaps tried to subconsciously evoke the idea that this was a street fight by using the term "gang." In his view, the battle between Obama's and Limbaugh's gangs would determine whether whites or nonwhites will ultimately wield "power."
Limbaugh did not choose these words lightly. His statement resembles rhetoric that goes back to the eighteenth century, according to which poor whites should rally together with slave owners around their shared whiteness, because if black slaves ever got free they would enact vengeance on all whites. It draws on the image of blacks as bloodthirsty savages bent on destroying the white civilization that has oppressed them for so long, without of course mentioning what that oppression says about how "civilized" are those who have carried it out. The greatest fear of the slave-owning elite was always an alliance of the common folk of all races. Limbaugh's use of the trope of white racial unity as the only defense against retribution for past mistreatments is not original, but that makes it no less disgraceful.
And this is exactly what the right has sought to do to Barack Obama since before they had even heard of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Rudy Giuliani does it his way, and Rush Limbaugh does it his. But make no mistake, both of them -- along with every other right winger who engages in this kind of race-baiting -- have but one goal in mind, and that is to draw on and even heighten already existing fears held by too many white Americans that the day is coming for, in Limbaugh's own words, "retribution."
And they have the nerve to say Obama's the one spreading hate.