Giuliani & Obama: Immigrant Families and Really Loving America

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Rudy Giuliani maintains that Barack Obama doesn’t love the United States of America because of the way he was brought up.


Obama was largely brought up after age 10 by his grandmother and grandfather on his mother’s side, Madelynn Dunham and Stanley Armour Dunham.

Stanley Dunham enlisted in the U.S. Army in January of 1942. His unit, the 1830th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company, Aviation, supported the 9th Air Force during the Allied landing at Normandy Beach in France on D-Day. Stanley and his unit were sent to France 6 weeks later, as was his brother.

As for his wife Madelyn, she made the sacrifice during the war of working the night shift in Wichita, Kansas, at a factory making the Boeing B-29.

Barack’s maternal uncle, Charlie Payne (Madelyn’s brother) served in the 89th Infantry Division. That division liberated one of the Buchenwald death camp complexes, Ohrdruf.

Somehow I feel that the Dunhams loved America and raised their grandson that way.

And it seems pretty clear that by referring to how Obama was brought up, Giuliani has just spit on the graves of the Dunham family.

In contrast, Rudy Giuliani never served in the US military and nor did his father (his grandparents immigrated from Italy). As for how he was brought up (and this isn’t his fault), his father Harold served time in Sing Sing for robbery and then was a soldier in an organized crime operation in Brooklyn that ran a gambling racket and did loan sharking.

I don’t know, maybe Harold raised Mr. Giuliani to love the country that offered him the opportunity to break people’s legs for not paying their vig.

And here you have to wonder if Giuliani’s bizarre trashing of Obama is a form of projection, if it is Rudy Giuliani who wasn’t raised to love his grandparents’ adopted country.

Obama and Giuliani are both from relatively recent immigrant backgrounds, but no one asked to see Giuliani’s birth certificate.

In fact there is an interesting reversal going on here, since Obama’s father came as a student and was from a rising family in the old country. Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. earned an MA in economics from Harvard. He rose to become senior economist for the Kenyan Ministry of Finance. Obama’s mother was from a Midwestern middle class family of old standing (it goes back to a signatory of the Magna Carta in England).

Obama’s antecedents were respectable ones and both of his parents had higher degrees. In the racist American system, though, he faced the challenge of low African-American social status.

Giuliani’s parents in contrast were children of Italian workers from the Tuscany region, who struggled to survive in the American urban jungle and cut some corners. Giuliani growing up also faced status issues in being Roman Catholic in a country with a Protestant establishment.

Both Obama and Giuliani overcame the challenges that their immigrant background presented to them, rising to high office despite not being WASPS. Both served the country to which their forebears came with high distinction. Giuliani as prosecutor helped clean up New York, though he later appointed corrupt officials once he became mayor. But his methods were unconstitutional, and involved constant pat-downs of minorities. Precisely because he was an outsider to the New York elite, Giuliani needed someone to look down on, someone on whom to blame crime, and for him it was the minorities (though his grandparents would have been viewed as minorities themselves on arrival here).

Giuliani should stop and consider that love for America is not just a statement of the sort, he says, Reagan and Clinton made. It is also honoring the central document of Americanness, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Giuliani is contemptuous of the fourth and eighth amendments and demonstrated it practically in the way he ran New York City.

That Obama is president and Giuliani is not clearly sticks in the latter’s craw. It is shameful that he should question Obama’s love of country. But surely he is just compensating in public for his own family’s shady background and his own mistakes such as violating the guarantee against unreasonable search, and promoting crooks such as Bernie Kerik. He should realize that he can’t convince people he loves America, after all his undermining of the US constitution, by denigrating the patriotism of the president of the United States.

24 Responses

  1. My father-in-law was a first-generation American whose parents came from Sicily. He was as much of a racist as Rudy Giuliani is. Both of them forgot that when Italians first started coming to the US in large numbers, THEY were looked on as undesirable swarthy people too, by the Irish, who had similarly been looked down upon. The history of this country is rife with struggling people whose attention has been diverted down the socioeconomic ladder so that those above them can amass more wealth at their expense. Post-WWII America is the anomaly.

  2. I remember when Rudy was on the same stage with Ron Paul in a debate, years ago. Paul alluded to U.S. actions in the Middle East, including support for Israel, as a cause of the attack on 9/11. Rudy said that he “had never heard that.” I thought this was probably a lie, but–given the virtual ban on discussing such matters in the U.S.– I couldn’t exclude the possibility that his ignorance really was that great.

  3. Giuliani’s assertions are nothing short of infantile, but let’s cut to the chase: define precisely how one shows “love” for one’s country. I take the “country” to be defined as the land and its people. Just how do we show “love” for each?

    By opposing attempts to preserve the land? By allowing oil companies to befoul its waters? By allowing them to ruin its land by fracking? By opposing setting aside more of it that is beautiful and pristine for future generations to enjoy? By extracting as many of its resources as possible? By depriving citizens of the public good of its waters? By depleting its fisheries? By supporting big ag so it can dump chemicals into the soil and create mono-cultural deserts of corn and soy? By cutting down its forests? By destroying the very climate that has helped to create and maintain it? There are plenty of people out there, especially on the right, trying to do just that.

    Is this to “love” the land?

    And just how do we show “love” of its people? By opposing a living wage? By condemning their children to hunger? By depriving the people of access to medical care? By sending the family members of people off to fight in wars of aggression based on lies? By duping the people with boogie-men (Muslims, Commies, etc.) to transfer their hard-earned and increasingly scarce resources to wealthy friends? By ignoring the epidemic that of gun violence that kills so many? By funding weapons programs at the expense of (say) education or cancer research? By constantly traducing a government that consists entirely (at least in theory) of the people’s sovereignty? Again, many on the right will defend any and all of this, all under the utterly specious, selfish, and self-serving pretenses of – take your pick, “security”, “growth”, “opportunity”, “free-dumb” (not a typo!)?

    Is this to “love” the people?

    If this is what it means to “love” one’s country, then you can have it!

    But all of this is a moot point at best, because this very discussion is idiotic: Patriotism, love of country, nationalism – all are indicative of a type of arrested development and infantilism, a product of the R-Complex of the Truine brain dating back to our reptilian ancestors, the part that celebrates hierarchy, territoriality, and aggression (to paraphrase Carl Sagan). It is as much as saying, “Look at us we are great/look at them they are bad” (aka “We’re number One”, aka “USA USA”, aka “Greatest Civilization in History” kai ta alla!). Wouldn’t politics be a lot more fun and interesting in this country if we demanded a type of Socratic give and take, in which journalists actually, gee, I don’t know, did their job, were confrontational, and required that politicians actually defined their terms (just what is a “Family Value”; just what the hell “values” are “Value Voters” espousing – how do we define and understand them?; what is “national security” – will bombing more Muslims in the name of “security” make us more “secure”)? Wouldn’t it be a better place if collectively we could actually be, gosh, self-aware and not be fearful of being self-critical? However, as should be clear in this instance, the assumptions underlying Giuliani’s nonsense are grossly flawed from inception.

    One would have thought, in light of the blood-lettings of the 20th century based on such “love” of country, that this sort of discussion would have gone out of acceptable discourse, right along with the sort of racism or sexism that seems to have attended it. Alas, this is the age of Maher, where bigotry against people based on creed has become acceptable even among so-called liberals – so why not throw “patriotism” into the mix as well? I think humanity needs a new model and paradigm before it’s too late.

    • Bravo GrumpyWithoutCoffee for your eloquent and angry post.

      I am reminded of James A. Baldwin’s quote: “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

  4. ‘Love for America’ is a pretty vague concept.

    Should we assume that anyone who loves America loves torture, total surveillance, mass incarceration, inequality, indebtedness, gun violence, gangs, drug use, pornography, obesity, sports mania, gambling, celebrity obsession, consumerism, and environmental profligacy?

    Do lovers of America’s history love conquest, genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, and segregation?

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

    • ‘Love for America’ is a pretty vague concept.

      So is love, itself. On several occasions I have read comments from hunters saying they love the animals they kill. Unfortunately, they never explain what they mean by “love.”

      We would probably be better served if we went back to an ancient concept – honor, which is more easily defined. When I was a child, one of the greatest compliments that could be paid to a person was to say that his or her word was good enough to the person speaking. Can anyone name more than maybe two, three or four people in Congress you would say that to? Unfortunately, the concept of honor is all too often reduced to a meaningless label. Consider how our national leaders have demonstrated America’s word is worthless. a. Treaties made with Native Americans repeatedly reneged on. b. The United States was a primary author of the United Nations Charter. It reneged on that with the war on Iraq. c. Same with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. d. Same with the Geneva Conventions. e. Same with the Nuremberg Principles. f. to zzzzzzz. Oaths of office and promises made by politicians to the American people.

    • If you define the tribe, you define the love.

      I hope that everyone replying here is just being sarcastic and in fact is well aware that for tens of millions of Americans, “country” is a codeword for “tribe”. Worse, it’s a warrior tribe. Even worse, it’s a fake warrior tribe, constructed by the London investors and the plantation owners who founded the American colonies as a way to co-opt the violent rage of their oppressed white servant classes, many of whom really were defeated Irish and Scottish tribesmen. The solution? The White Race, a new construct built to wage war on blacks and native Americans and conquer a continent and thus make the oligarchs a fortune.

      It’s hugely important. It means that those of us who aren’t “real” Americans are viewed as the conquered. “Real” Americans are necessarily a subset, a master race, not the Constitution or the law or society. Their relationship to the rest of us must be as a punisher. If they can’t act that way, they get all angry and feel betrayed. Giuliani may disagree with the Protestant evangelicals and militia nuts about many things, but they all are united by their love of punishment.

      Warrior tribes can’t share power. They will never be satisfied unless they have a monopoly of power.

    • And just to give attribution where it’s due, Dr. Samuel Johnson coined that phrase about patriotism in 18th century England–but it remains true in 21st century America.

  5. Given the performance of elected officials in DC it would probably be judicious to question most of them on their claims to love America when we observe their votes mostly serve their campaign donors and are often at the expense of the people. The same goes for the many appointed officials who appear to be more in league with corporations (Wall Street, etc.) whose only concern is for increasing their already enormous profits. In the case of corporate executives who siphon most of the profits for themselves and leave their employees in poverty, their claims of love for America are more examples of hypocrisy. We would do well to add the mainstream media for promoting lies that lead to disastrous wars. Which brings us to the the chickenhawks who promote those wars without any risk of their butts getting near a war zone. The young and naive men and women who fall for those lies are probably among the minority of Americans who genuinely love their country.

  6. Juicy stuff. Rudy defended his initial comments as non-racist by making remarks about Obama’s white family, including his mother. Rudy should have spelled it out in Nixonian terms.

    “Obama’s mama was such a commie she was pink right down to her panties.”

    I wonder if Rand Paul thinks Giuliani is an example of the “profound mental disorders” caused by vaccines? And the 2016 campaign is just getting started. Ya gotta love these Republicans. :)

  7. It seems fair to conclude that whisteblowers who exposed crimes, corruption and other abuses of power in government and major corporations did so out of love for their country. So, what does that say about the people who have persecuted them and are prepared to do the same to others in the future?

    • Good point! Obama may not “love America”, but Rudy hasn’t a clue about what really makes that true. Mostly because Rudy doesn’t “love America” in precisely the same way.

  8. Hey, betraying your ancestors and kissing the asses of the overlords of your adopted land in order to get ahead is damn hard work. You deserve to get rewarded by being able to hate and dehumanize those minorities who refused to do the same.

  9. The information about Giuliani’s father is something I never heard before. Of course Giuliani cannot be held responsible for his father’s behavior, but I wonder how this information has not, to my knowledge, been widely presented by the main stream media.

    If Obama’s, or most any Democrat’s, father was a convicted gangster, mug shots, rumors, conviction documents, etc., would be ubiquitous media meat in the heat of a presidential campaign.

    • I never knew that Rudy’s father was a convicted gangster either. It is laudable that Rudy rose above that. It is interesting that Rudy’s American heritage starts with his Immigrant Italian Grandparents. Whereas, Obama’s maternal heritage goes far back. His mother’s father was the son of Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham (named after an American poet!). All of Obama’s maternal heritage goes back early into the 19th century—at least. Obama’s background is clearly wayyyy more American than Rudy’s.
      I agree with you that Republicans are very, very skilled at opposition research, and the Democrats are unskilled in many aspects of politics.

      • I should have said that Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham was his mother’s grandfather—and Obama’s great-grandfather.

  10. You might also have mentioned that Giuliani’s father dodged military service in a war where one enemy was Italy. You might think that raises the question of which side he was on, especially since all his uncles also dodged WWII military service, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Also, in “normal” American families in the postwar era, kids grew up among veteran dads and uncles. So it would appear that Giuliani is the outlier, patriotic upbringing-wise. A kid who grew up in Brooklyn rooting for the Yankees shouldn’t throw stones.

  11. Methinks this is largely sophistry on Giuliani’s part, this man is not unintelligent and so what he does is calculated in so far as it constitutes bland psychologizing as opposed to arguments characterized by analytical rigor–for such qualities would in themselves be informative and constructively emulatable and therefore truly popularly empowering and therefore communistic-seeming and thus obscene to elements of the elite, so that in its very vacuity of content Giuliani’s position embodies anti-democratic obscurantism and deception, while Obama’s is a style that never quite fully surrenders itself in its self-hypnotic fervor to the aforementioned obscurantism, incuriosity, and willful credulity of a Giuliani or even a Hillary.

  12. Obama loved America more than Presidents Cheney/Bush because he got Osama bin Laden. The Bush group only threatened but never acted. Now that is a love story

  13. I’ve always seen Rudy and Bernie as Siamese twins. Apparently little really changed since the days of Sing Sing.

  14. If Giuliani saying something stupid is News Worthy, the Race must be on.
    The Earth will travel over 1,000,000,000 miles around the sun before we elect the next President, and as Earth bends and distorts space time, our pols will be distorting and bending reality and reason and spewing it out across the Cosmos via the Electromagnetic spectrum

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