Bringing up Barack – and Rudy


Nobody commented on my recent blog about Rudy Giuliani’s verbal slap in the President’s face. But I still think it’s worth discussing. So here I go again.

This is what the former New York mayor said:

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 wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

What I find stunning is not just the part about President Obama not loving America. Who knows what that means? As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out on TV last night, “love” is a slippery word, impossible to define.

But we all know what someone means when they say we weren’t “brought up” right.

It’s a phrase I heard often when I was growing up in class-conscious Jamaica. And if you’re from Jamaica, you know class has a lot to do with color in that society. Generally speaking, the lighter your skin the higher your social status. (I say “generally speaking” because, throughout history, some of Jamaica’s most distinguished sons and daughters have been very dark-skinned.)

Now, Rudy Giuliani is Italian so his complexion is lighter than Barack Obama’s, whose father was Kenyan.

But who in their right mind would suggest that Giuliani comes from a better home?

For most of his childhood, Barack lived with his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham (shown during World War II in top photo, and with Barack in later years, below). His grandfather was an active service  veteran, his grandmother worked in a munitions factory to support the war effort.

Giuliani sought several deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, and none of his close relatives were veterans, as far as I was able to find out. In fact, according to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett, five of Rudy Giuliani’s uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. So it doesn’t look as if the “Nine-Eleven mayor’s” folks were very patriotic.

And that’s not all.

Rudy Giuliani was brought up by a father who – according to several sources – broke legs, smashed kneecaps and crunched noses’ for a loansharking operation in the 1950s. He served hard time for a stick-up and was involvedin a Brooklyn gunfight in the 1960s.

OK,  you think I’m going with the Italian stereotype, right? Yes, I know that just because your name sounds Italian it doesn’t mean you’re in the Mafia. But facts are facts. Public records can usually be trusted. And those records show that Giuliani’s father, uncle and cousin all had ties with organized crime. Indeed, his cousin was killed in a shoot-out with the FBI.

(Of course, even if you don’t have an Italian last name, you can still be connected to the mob. According to David Halbfinger and David Kocieniewski of the New York Times, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has the same kind of ties as Giuliani. They say the brother of Christie’s aunt’s husband, Tino Fiumara, is a ranking member of the Genovese crime family who was twice convicted of racketeering.}

However you look at it, Rudy Giuliani had a lot of nerve criticizing the way the President was brought up. Giuliani’s family probably was a lot richer than Obama’s. And as a successful lawyer and businessman, his own net worth is $45 million.

But being richer (or lighter-skinned) doesn’t mean you come from a better home.

From all accounts, Barack Obama grew up in a decent home.  His grandparents were hard working, patriotic Americans. Both his American mother and Kenyan father were law-abiding people. So, too, was his Indonesian stepfather, with whom he spent a few years (from age 6 to age 10).

None of them had a criminal record or anything close.

Rudy Giuliani cannot accurately say the same about his family.

Click for more on Giulani’s family.

Click for the real Rudy Giuliani.

Click for more on Obama’s grandmother.