Okay, so maybe President Barack Obama does love America, Rudy Giuliani reluctantly admitted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. But the former New York City mayor qualified the concession with another knock on Obama: He doesn’t think America is better than everyone else.
"To say, as the president has, that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country in the world, does not suggest a becoming and endearing modesty, but rather a stark lack of moral clarity," Giuliani wrote Feb. 23.
Giuliani penned the op-ed to defuse criticism that erupted last week after he told a crowd, "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America." Already, Giuliani tried to cover his tracks by claiming Obama doesn’t say "what an exceptional country we are" (which was painstakingly debunked by the Washington Post Fact Checker).
But does his new explanation hold up? We decided to take a look.
Giuliani didn’t respond to our request for more information. But it’s pretty clear from his comments and other recent remarks that he’s talking about a press conference from the early days of Obama’s presidency. (Yes, this controversy over whether Obama supports the idea of "American exceptionalism" is now six years old.)
While at an April 2009 NATO summit in France, a reporter from the London-based Financial Times asked Obama "whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?"
Obama gave a nuanced answer that affirmed his belief in American exceptionalism and that "America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity." Obama also added, "I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
Admitting citizens of other countries believe that their countries are exceptional is not the same thing as saying all countries are equally exceptional, as Giuliani surmised. To put it in terms a New Yorker like Giuliani might understand: A Yankees fan who admits a Red Sox fan loves his team is not saying the Red Sox are as good as the Yankees.
Obama went on to point out — on European soil no less — that America essentially saved Europe during and after World War II, and noted that the United States is "the largest economy in the world," has "unmatched military capacity," and possesses "a core set of values that are enshrined in our constitution ... that, though imperfect, are exceptional."
Here’s Obama’s full response:
I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.
And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.
Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.
And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships, because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.
Giuliani claimed that Obama said "that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country."
In a response in which he repeatedly praised American exceptionalism and what it has offered the world, Obama also said, "I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." That is a pretty obvious and benign statement, and it’s hardly the same as Obama putting his opinion of American exceptionalism on the same level as Greek exceptionalism, as his full remarks show.
We rate Giuliani’s claim False.