Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani doesn't like Obama. Recently he's been telling folks that Obama ought to be more like Bill Cosby and take a lot of black Americans to task for their self-evident distance from the norms of civil society. Specifically single parent families and anti-police politics. What gives?
I understand and resonate with Giuliani out of respect for what prosecutors do and the codes of honor that law enforcement has to uphold. What's particularly interesting is the extent to which Americans expect a bully pulpit and the special regard for which the character of elected officials is fungible in our democracy.
Giuliani, more than any single individual I can think of, personifies and is responsible for the idea of a 9/11 patriot. There are few documentaries as compelling as those showing what his office and the municipality of NYC did in coordination with fire, rescue and police during that tragedy. Rudy Giuliani put 'first responders' into America's consciousness, as straight out heroes.
His failure to convert that halo into the brass ring of a presidential nomination has not daunted him. He will always be to me, the man who stared down the Mafia and beat them. Exactly what he is to his political opponents is probably some form of 'arrogant'. (Arrogant is what you call intelligent people you disagree with when your arguments don't persuade them.) But he gets to talk about America and patriotism in that vein.
I'm not particularly fond of the fact that since the evisceration of the Social Register, the counter-cultural warriors of the Boom generation has not replaced it with anything particularly inspiring. I can't decide whether it's Paul Schaffer or Larry David that I think best represents that generation, snarky, laid-back, casual, skeptical and reverent of nothing but their right to be just that unleashed from any concept of selfless duty to God and Country.
As popular as Obama is and as populist as he attempts to be, at no point has he ever personified the virtues of selfless duty to God and Country. He's the guy who will never live down his choice to remove the American flag lapel pin in his campaign. You can't make that up. Obama doesn't get to talk about America and patriotism in that vein because he doesn't want to. Obama is not that kind of America's Dad. So in that respect, the President is not using that side of the bully pulpit - it has been empty for years.
Obviously one can be an effective President without being America's Dad. I'm not sure you can be anything approaching a great one without being the proper kind of moral scourge. Like I say of so many other incidents in which Barack Obama is being disrespected and disregarded: If he were capable of leading in that way, he would be.
Giuliani, like anyone else, shows some cheek for suggesting that Obama in particular ought to change his stripes and deliver the sort of socially conservative message he would like to hear from any corner. Nobody likes to be lectured, especially not Boomers. Certainly not black Americans from the likes of Giuliani. Perhaps Rudy understands that the likes of Ben Carson are not, in the end, going to be as popular for delivering the messages they are already giving. People of a socially conservative bent are already responding to Carson and Allen West, et al. But everyone knows that's not a majority.
But what is really revealing itself in this battle of blather is how much the American electorate has been reduced to bickering over symbols. I'm not sure that it is inevitable in a democracy, but I'm pretty sure that it is in our democracy, in particular, a social-media driven chatting class expanded to such dimensions of innumracy and illiteracy, not to mention irrationality. People want the White House to be both their government and their church, and your guy has no right to tell us what to do. America's problem is determining to whom 'patriotism' belongs, almost none of which has anything to do with policy.
Isn't it amazing how much of politics has nothing to do with policy?