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The Exceptional Rudy Giuliani, and the Repubs.

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Several weeks ago, on the occasion of his "Obama doesn't love America" outburst, I was about to write a column on Rudy Giuliani. But several other important matters came up that demanded my attention, the controversy over the remarks faded fairly fast, and I was going to let the matter drop. But then came the "the cop who killed the unarmed black man in Ferguson deserves a commendation" controversy. That one is still timely (and will be as long as white cops shoot unarmed black men at, shall we say, an unusual rate) and so I just cannot resist.

Since Giuliani is always, incessantly, talking about "American exceptionalism," the first question that comes to mind is "is he, himself, exceptional?" Is Giuliani really different from the vast majority of today's Repubs. in substance, or is it just a matter of style? Of course, I have no way of looking into the minds of the "vast majority of Repubs." But I can look at their responses to what Giuliani has said. I can recall no leading Repub. rebuking Giuliani for calling into question the President's patriotism, couched in the colloquial "loves America terms." But maybe I just missed the one, two, or few who might have. (Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in the context of the "Obama doesn't love America" event, sitting a few seats away from Giuliani, gladly accepted his implied endorsement for the Presidency.)

From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/5568968541/: 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates - If real teeth, instead of just verbal ones, could have won Giuliani the nomination, who knows?
2012 Republican Presidential Candidates - If real teeth, instead of just verbal ones, could have won Giuliani the nomination, who knows?
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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Nor have I seen any put-downs from Repubs. of Giuliani for the "killer deserves a commendation" comment, but maybe I just missed the one, two, or few who might have too. In fact, Giuliani likely reflects the view of his political compatriots who jumped to the conclusion that the Wilson killing of Michael Brown was entirely justified. He said that Michael Brown, "attempted to assault a police officer, and the police officer -- to save his life -- shot him." So that one does lead one to the direction of "Giuliani differs from the vast majority of his political colleagues just in the matter of style, not the much more important matter --- substance." Indeed, Rudy, no, you're not exceptional. You are, sadly, as far as we can make out from their public statements or lack thereof, typical of today's Repubs.

So why do the Rightists take positions like Giuliani has taken here? The primary reason is that they want to get the discussion off the real subject at hand. On the "doesn't love America" thing, Giuliani was talking about it in the context of recognizing that our country does indeed have its faults, ranging from its history of slavery and its successor, the Doctrine of White Supremacy, to its present ever-increasing income/wealth inequality, faults which need fixing, and indeed could be fixed. But, a) the Repubs. never want to talk about faults, one reason being that it is Rightist policies over time that have been responsible for so many of them. And b) so many of the great things about our country, from the national parks/forests system (which the Repubs. are now setting about to destroy), to the social supports system which we do have (which, as limited as it is, has been and still is opposed by the Repubs. every step of the way --- the latest GOP House budget proposes to privatize Medicare), to the major cultural life that we have (which the Repubs. don't care one whit about, in terms of financial support for it), and even to "The Last Good War" (World War II), the entry into which by the United States was opposed by the Republican Party right up until the first Japanese bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor.

On the killing of Michael Brown and its aftermath, Giuliani and his fellow Repubs. would much rather have the discussion on whether Michael Brown was correctly shot, than on the fatally (if I may use that term) flawed criminal justice system in Missouri (and it's not just Ferguson) that made sure that the case would never get to trial in a court of law. Indeed, we will never have the best approximation of what really happened on the tragic day. For as is well-known the "Prosecutor," acting as Wilson's defense attorney at the Grand Jury Hearing, made sure that the case would never come to trial. Thus, there would be: a) no real prosecutor, and b) there would be no cross-examination of witnesses either by a real prosecutor or by the defense (for which the "Prosecutor" of record, McCullough, would actually have made a great attorney).

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This is one of the most important issues in the "Ferguson case," but it is hardly one that Giuliani and the Repubs. would like to discuss, much less debate. They would much rather have the discussion be around "how could he say such a thing?" Which then quickly descends to the schoolyard level: "I'm right, no you're not, yes I am, no you're not," which serves the Repub. purpose just beautifully, (just like the McCain "Obama is having a temper tantrum" remark does).

As for what's really exceptional about America, the Giuliani's and the Palins never seem to present their lists, beyond terms like "liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez faire." Here is not the place to discuss a) just how accurate that list is and b) whether other nations do not have elements of it. But it is more important to note that those words do not connote policies. Why? Because, just as noted just above, Repubs. do everything they can to avoid discussion either policies that they are for (other than a "stronger national defense" for which they never, ever tell us how the money to pay for it is to be raised and/or what other government expenditures are to be cut) or when they find policies they are against, coming up with positive substitutes for them. E.g., see the current Administration-bashing over the Iran/nukes negotiations, for which the Repubs., so far have offered absolutely no alternatives --- other than "NO," that is.

Of course, one can put together a brief not-so-complimentary list of what is exceptional about the U.S., but the Repubs. would surely not want to discuss it. In fact, they just might accuse the one who raised it of "not loving America," just to, guess what, get the discussion off the substance. Nevertheless, not necessarily in order of importance, here's a list of some outstanding ways in which the US is indeed exceptional among the nations of the world.

1. The US simply ignores treaties to which it is a party, like the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, without so much as a by-your leave.
2. In the US, Administrations can ignore its own Constitution, as in the case of its Article VI and the above-mentioned torture policy, without anyone in a position of authority saying boo to a goose.
3. The US is the only advanced capitalist country without a national health insurance system, to say nothing of a national health service.
4. The US has the largest military empire in the world, bar none,
5. Among the major Western democracies, it is the only one in which one major party runs in major part on right-wing religious bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, and climate change denial.
6. It is one of very few capitalist countries that has no civilian population with a personal recollection of war and its consequences.
7. Of the advanced capitalist countries it has the lowest proportion of workers who are unionized.
8. Of the advanced capitalist countries it is the one with the highest degree of corporate control of election outcomes, and the lowest level of citizen participation in elections.
9. Unlike every other advanced capitalist country, it has no high-speed rail system.
10. It has the highest proportion of government expenditures on the military of any nation in the world.
11. It has one or more candidates for the Presidency one of whose principal platform planks will be that the current sitting President doesn't believe that the United States is "exceptional."

By golly, I wonder what Rudy and Sarah would think of that one. Betcha they wouldn't like it. And oh yes, who would you say loved their country more: one who for whom the above-list is just peachy keen, or one who would like nothing more than to see every element on it become a thing of the past.


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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)

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