Rudy Giuliani is stepping back from his comments questioning President Barack Obama’s patriotism – finally, after sticking by those remarks repeatedly in recent days, and watching Republican 2016 presidential contenders distance themselves from him.
The former New York City mayor took to The Wall Street Journal opinion pages Sunday night seeking to move beyond the firestorm over his comments, saying his problem is really with Obama’s policies.
“My blunt language suggesting that the President doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart,” Giuliani wrote. “My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance.”
He went on to critique Obama’s language, saying the President should tout the exceptionalism of America more and make the country’s differences with nations that have fostered terrorism more clear. He said Obama should criticize the United States’ history less often.
But Giuliani emphasized that he “cannot read President Obama’s mind or heart.”
The failed Republican 2008 presidential hopeful’s retraction came after several days of top GOP names distanced themselves from him, saying it’s appropriate to criticize Obama’s policies but not to question his patriotism.
It also turned into a bit of a trap for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a leading Republican presidential contender who was on stage with Giuliani when he made his comment.
Walker has since ducked questions about whether he believes Obama loves America, as well as a question from The Washington Post about whether he believes Obama is a Christian, saying he hasn’t spoken to the President about those things so he can’t know.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said his decision to run for the Republican nomination will be based on two things: his family and whether he can lift America's spirit. His father and brother are former Presidents.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has created a political committee that will help him travel and raise money while he considers a 2016 bid. Additionally, billionaire businessman David Koch said in a private gathering in Manhattan this month that he wants Walker to be the next president, but he doesn't plan to back anyone in the primaries.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is establishing a committee to formally explore a White House bid. "If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction," he said in a news release provided to CNN on Monday, May 18.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, has said the United States needs a "political revolution" of working-class Americans looking to take back control of the government from billionaires. He first announced the run in an email to supporters early on the morning of Thursday, April 30.
On March 2, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced the launch of an exploratory committee. The move will allow him to raise money that could eventually be transferred to an official presidential campaign and indicates he is on track with stated plans to formally announce a bid in May.
Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid Sunday, April 12, through a video message on social media. She continues to be considered the overwhelming front-runner among possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.
Sen. Marco Rubio announced his bid for the 2016 presidency on Monday, April 13, a day after Hillary Clinton, with a rally in Florida. He's a Republican rising star from Florida who swept into office in 2010 on the back of tea party fervor. But his support of comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate but has stalled in the House, has led some in his party to sour on his prospects.
Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former governor and senator of Rhode Island, said he's running for president on Thursday, April 16, as a Democrat, but his spokeswoman said the campaign is still in the presidential exploratory committee stages.
Vice President Joe Biden has twice before made unsuccessful bids for the Oval Office -- in 1988 and 2008. A former senator known for his foreign policy and national security expertise, Biden made the rounds on the morning shows recently and said he thinks he'd "make a good President."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has started a series of town halls in New Hampshire to test the presidential waters, becoming more comfortable talking about national issues and staking out positions on hot topic debates.
Sen. Rand Paul officially announced his presidential bid on Tuesday, April 7, at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. The tea party favorite probably will have to address previous controversies that include comments on civil rights, a plagiarism allegation and his assertion that the top NSA official lied to Congress about surveillance.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced his 2016 presidential bid on Monday, March 23, in a speech at Liberty University. The first-term Republican and tea party darling is considered a gifted orator and smart politician. He is best known in the Senate for his marathon filibuster over defunding Obamacare.
Democrat Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, released a "buzzy" political video in November 2013 in tandem with visits to New Hampshire. He also headlined a Democratic Party event in South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a social conservative, gave Mitt Romney his toughest challenge in the nomination fight last time out and has made trips recently to early voting states, including Iowa and South Carolina.
Political observers expect New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to yield to Hillary Clinton's run in 2016, fearing there wouldn't be room in the race for two Democrats from the Empire State.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, continued to criticize Giuliani on Sunday.
“I don’t think it helps to question the President’s patriotism or motives,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.” Pence added that Giuliani is “understandably frustrated with a President who as I said before is fully willing to lecture the people of this country about the crusades, but is unwilling to call Islamic extremism for what it is.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, “I can’t get into his head, or for that matter into his soul about what he thinks about the country, but again I think the President in his mind loves this country, but his policies and what his policies are doing to this country is my concern.”
Other Republicans – including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – have made similar comments in recent days.
While Rubio said he doesn’t question Obama’s motives, he also critiqued journalists for pushing the issue – saying that Democrats aren’t forced to answer for it “every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing.”