After Rudy Giuliani embarked on an unhinged anti-Obama rant this week, asserting that the president doesn't love America and "wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up," a sizable chunk of political observers reacted by lamenting the sad decline of a man once hailed as America's Mayor. "What a sad, even pathetic person Giuliani has become," Dan Gillmor sighed. Politico's Ben White was simultaneously disappointed and scathing: "Sad to see what a lunatic Rudy Giuliani has turned into," he tweeted.
On Thursday, Giuliani continued his audition for a column at World Net Daily, telling Megyn Kelly that he'd gladly "repeat" his comments and ridiculing the notion that his remarks about the first African-American president's upbringing were racist by noting to the New York Times that Obama's mother was white. His descent into right-wing insanity seemed inexorable.
But do Giuliani's remarks -- and his defiant defenses of them -- truly represent a transformation? Only if one ignores his long history of demagogic race-baiting, which hardly began with his criticism of Obama or his reactionary rhetoric in the wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner's deaths.
As historian Jason Sokol told NPR last year, Giuliani built his political career in large part on racial animus, exploiting the white backlash against black Mayor David Dinkins during his successful 1993 mayoral campaign. Following the Crown Heights riots, Giuliani appeared at a rally of white police officers protesting Dinkins' policies, where one officer held a sign reading, "Dump the washroom attendant."
Once mayor, Giuliani worsened the city's racial divide, instituting "Broken Windows" policing, gutting social services, and appearing wholly unperturbed by incidences of flagrant police misconduct, the Intercept's Andrew Jerell Jones noted last year:
During his first term as mayor, Giuliani instituted policies guided by the controversial "Broken Windows" theory, which has been used to guide law enforcement officials to focus on stopping petty crime like littering or spraying graffiti. But Broken Windows, which has returned to New York along with its creator, Giuliani and now Mayor Bill De Blasio's police commissioner Bill Bratton, has been widely and correctly criticized as a pretext for racially discriminatory policing.
Giuliani also emphatically backed the New York Police Department's handling of the notorious assault or killings on the unarmed black trio of Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, and Patrick Dorismond. And he showed no hesitation in implementing the harsh conservative policies Republicans like him prefer that severely harmed the poor and working class, groups that are disproportionally black, during his time as mayor. Attacking union rights, welfare for the poor and going after social service programs were all apart of Giuliani's legacy as mayor.
In his post-mayoralty, Giuliani remains an unreconstructed race-baiter, playing to the same racial fears that propelled him to political power. Campaigning for Mayor Michael Bloomberg 2009, Giuliani warned that if voters elected Bill Thompson, Bloomberg's African-American opponent, the city could return to the days when there was a "fear of going out at night and walking the streets."
"You know exactly what I'm talking about," he added.
And so Giuliani continued in that vile tradition this week, all the while reacting with indignation to the suggestion that his rhetoric is the least bit problematic. As Giuliani biographer Wayne Barrett writes in an appropriately brutal, must-read column for the Daily News, "He never acknowledged his dark side then and he's not about to now." Others need not be so blind to his pernicious legacy.