In the 2016 campaign, presidential candidates are, apparently, going to be responsible for what other candidates say and, what the heck, anything a former politician of the same party might say — even if he last won office nearly 20 years ago.*
(*Applies only to Republicans.)
Last week, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said President Obama doesn’t “love America.” The 70-year-old now has a job in which he talks for a living, on Fox News, on the speaking circuit, anywhere someone will pay a buck to listen to him.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” he told a few dozen conservative business leaders gathered at the 21 Club to hear Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
Mr. Mayor later tried to explain: “I’m not questioning his patriotism,” he said; then “I very rarely hear the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say” (shocker); finally, something about the president being influenced by communists as a youth.
Now, Rudy’s got every right to say whatever he wants, however dumb. And it was dumb. The president may have some psychotic need to placate Muslims, and nearly every one of his policies is certainly taking America in the wrong direction. But love of America? He’s president, my bet is that he loves America.
So end of story, right? Wrong.
America’s vaunted press corps spent the week demanding potential presidential candidates weigh in on what a city mayor from the 1990s said. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank got so worked up he declared one candidate’s campaign should be over.
“What Scott Walker did ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender,” Mr. Milbank wrote. His crime? Mr. Walker said “nothing” when the mayor made his claim. Asked later, Mr. Walker said: “The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people — Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between — who love this country.”
“But did he agree with Giuliani?” Mr. Milbank wrote. “‘I’m in New York,’ Walker demurred. ‘I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.’”
So, the governor of Wisconsin is disqualified from the presidency because he didn’t take issue with another American’s freedom of speech.
The “gotcha” games of the liberal media have already begun. A couple of weeks ago, reporters following Mr. Walker in London demanded to know if he believed in evolution. And before that, all the rage among the MSM was what possible Republican candidates thought about vaccines.
Since then, some of those candidates have been asked about what other candidates said. It’s a tried-and-true tactic for the leftist media: One nut job Republican utters the words “legitimate rape,” and suddenly all Republicans are legitimate rapists.
But here’s how you know what the MSM is up to: When Skeezy Joe Biden groped a Cabinet secretary’s wife, leaning in close for a Shades of Grey whisper, no one asked Hillary Rodham Clinton if she thought her potential 2016 opponent was a perv (she has some experience with dirty old men; could’ve given a highly qualified opinion).
When lib darling Elizabeth Warren was out on the Senate campaign claiming to be part American Indian, no reporter asked Mr. Biden what he thought about a candidate lying (and with his plagiarism past, he could’ve gone on and on). And nobody bothered to ask Mr. Obama what he thought about his skeev of a veep.
Still, you can put some of the blame on those unskilled Republicans, the ones who walk right into the trap. By now you’d think they’d know the media are always lying in wait, ready to pounce. So, here’s a quick primer to all those ready to run: Take note of how another potential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, handled the “Love America” question:
“I don’t feel like I’m in a position to have to answer for every person in my party that makes a claim. Democrats aren’t asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don’t know why I should answer every time a Republican does. I’ll suffice it to say that I believe the president loves America; I think his ideas are bad.”
Boom. In his answer, he dissed Dirty Ol’ Man Biden, slapped the media, said he’s not responsible for everything everyone else in the world says and gets in a solid punch on the president — not personal but purely on policy — all the while saying, “Sure, the president loves America.”
Take note, Republican hopefuls. This is only the beginning. Time to learn how to handle the simple-minded mainstream media. It’s really not that difficult.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.