Former-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani hasn't held elective office in over a decade and hasn't run for office in more than five years, but that didn't stop the White House press corps from letting one single sentence from Giuliani dominate the entire White House press briefing Friday.
While the Islamic State killed 42 civilians in Libya and President Obama's second term agenda suffered a major defeat in federal court, the White House press corps asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest no less than five questions about a single statement Giuliani made at a private dinner with probable-2016-candidate Gov. Scott Walker.
By contrast, just one question was asked about the State Department's rules for administration officials soliciting money from foreign governments in light of news that the Clinton Foundation has been taking millions from countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Here are all five questions:
1. Q: And since it’s Friday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in his attempt to clean up some comments he made about the President not loving America, says that he couldn’t possibly have been racist with those remarks because the President has a white mother and grew up among white people. Any reaction to that from the White House?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Josh, I don’t have a direct response to Mr. Giuliani’s comments, either from --
Q: It looks like you have one to look to right there.
MR. EARNEST: Why don’t you indulge me for a little bit and we’ll see if I can give you something to work with, even if it’s not a direct response to his comments.
Many of you have been in the room when the President has delivered speeches where he’s talked about his love for this country or how the United States is a force for good in the world; in fact, it’s the greatest force for good that the world has ever seen. And so we can send you those examples, and many of you have been in the room when he has delivered remarks like that, both in this country and around the world.
More generally, I can tell you that it’s sad to see when somebody who has attained a certain level of public stature and even admiration tarnishes that legacy so thoroughly. And the truth is I don’t take any joy or vindication or satisfaction from that. I think, really, the only thing that I feel is I feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani today.
2. Q: Josh, just getting back to Mayor Giuliani. Did the President have a reaction to those comments?
MR. EARNEST: Not that I’m aware of.
3. Q: Okay. And buttoning up on Rudy Giuliani, you said something interesting. You said -- correct me, but you basically feel sorry for him. I mean, this is kind of -- you're kind of sorry to see what’s happened here. Do you think Rudy Giuliani has lost it?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know. But, look, any time that we have -- there is somebody who has attained a certain level of public stature and even admiration, in some cases, to see that person so thoroughly tarnish their legacy, it's sad. And again, there’s no element of schadenfreude that people are feeling around here. The fact is, I think what people are feeling is sorry for Rudy Giuliani.
Q: And because, again, on this specific allegation, which -- however you want to characterize it -- but he says that he doesn’t believe the President loves America.
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, there are a number of examples -- and, Jon, you’ve traveled around the world with the President so you know firsthand that there are a number of situations in which the President said exactly that. The most high-profile example that I can think of was actually the last line of this year’s State of the Union in which the President said, “God bless this country we love.”
Q: What makes somebody of that stature, Rudy Giuliani, what makes him say something like that?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know.
4. Q: Josh, given your sorrow for Rudy Giuliani, do you think the President has any regrets about saying President Bush was unpatriotic for adding $4 trillion to the debt?
MR. EARNEST: Ed, I don't know if “sorrow” is the word that I would use.
Q: You said, “I feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani.”
MR. EARNEST: Yes, I do. I do feel sorry for him.
Q: Okay, so you feel sorry, but does the President have any regrets? Regardless of what Giuliani said -- as a candidate, Senator Obama said that President Bush was unpatriotic.
MR. EARNEST: I think -- again, I haven't seen the actual comments. I don't know if you have them there in front of you.
Q: He said that the President -- I'm paraphrasing this part -- had added about $4 trillion to the debt, and then he said, “That's irresponsible. That's unpatriotic.” So I see a difference from Giuliani because he’s talking about an issue, but nonetheless questioning the patriotism of the President of the United States.
MR. EARNEST: I think that what the President was doing was he was questioning the specific wisdom of that decision and questioning whether or not that was in the best interest of the country.
Q: He didn’t say that’s unwise. He said that's unpatriotic.
MR. EARNEST: Right. But again, he was talking about that. He was not talking about a person. And again, I think there is a lot that the President also had to say in the State of the Union about the level of our discourse, and there is no doubt that we're going to have significant disagreements across the aisle, and that is ultimately what a democracy is all about, where we go in and we debate the issues.
But the President, as you’ll recall, in the State of the Union said we should have a debate that's worthy of the United States Congress and worthy of the country; that there are significant challenges facing this country, and that sort of resorting to a politics in which we question each other’s basic decency is not consistent with the reason that a lot of people got into public service.
5. Q: If I could read one sentence from the President’s remarks today at the DNC, taking them out of context. But he said, “It’s making a nation we love more perfect.” Was that written in after as a response to Rudy Giuliani?
MR. EARNEST: It was not. As I pointed out, the President said something very similar at the end of the State of Union address this year -- “God bless this country we love.” So the fact is the President often talks about his love for this country. It’s not unique.