Somehow the controversy surrounding Rudy Giuliani’s claim that President Obama doesn’t love America managed to get even more ridiculous over the weekend, and not just because the former mayor repeated his theories to any media outlet that would have him. As Giuliani toned down his remarks, somewhat, for a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the focus shifted to Scott Walker, who took things a step further by claiming he doesn’t even know if President Obama is a Christian.
Since Giuliani made the original remark in the Wisconsin governor’s presence, he’s been asked repeatedly to weigh in on the controversy. Though Walker’s decision last week to “punt” on an obvious question about evolution didn’t go over very well, he decided to use the same strategy. On Friday he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he didn’t think Giuliani crossed the line, adding, “I’ve said repeatedly that (Giuliani) can speak for himself. The president can defend that.” When pressed on whether he thinks the president loves America, Walker responded:
I assume most people in this country love America. And to me I don’t think it’s worth getting into the battle over whether he does or he doesn’t. He can handle that himself. I know I do. And I know there are great people in this country who love this country and who … feel this country’s exceptional and it doesn’t necessarily align by party. I think there are Republicans and Democrats and plenty of people in between. I’ve never asked the President so I don’t really know what his opinions are on that one way or another.
Then on Saturday, the Washington Post posed the same question. “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know, one way or the other,” Walker said. “I’ve said that 100 times, too.” When asked if Obama is a Christian, Walker responded, “I don’t know.” The reporter informed Walker that the president has repeatedly discussed his Christian beliefs. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
The governor suggested he was dodging the question as a matter of principle, not because he wants to reserve the right to snatch the GOP’s xenophobic racist dog whistle back from Bobby Jindal if necessary. “To me, this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press,” he said. “The things they care about don’t even remotely come close to what you’re asking about.”
Following the interview, Walker spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster called the Post and assured them that the governor was not questioning the president’s faith (though, of course, that’s exactly how one Fox News commentator responded). “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” she said. “He thinks these kinds of gotcha questions distract from what he’s doing as governor of Wisconsin to make the state better and make life better for people in his state.”
Somehow, Jeb Bush managed to answer similar questions in a way that criticized the president while making it clear that he does not agree with the wing of his party that fervently believes Obama is a secret Muslim/communist/Kenyan/socialist/terrorist sympathizer. “Governor Bush doesn’t question President Obama’s motives. He does question President Obama’s disastrous policies,” he said in a statement. But then conservatives wouldn’t be praising Walker for his heroic incompetence when it comes to answering basic questions posed to politicians. “Republicans are never going to win with the mainstream media, so they shouldn’t bother,” Derek Hunter explained in the Daily Caller. Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush impression is going to seem a lot less funny when Republicans respond to every debate question by squinting their eyes and saying “pass.”