The firestorm of denunciation of former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, for having said that he did not think Barack Obama loved America, is in one sense out of all proportion to that remark -- especially at a time when there are much bigger issues, including wars raging, terrorist atrocities and a nuclear Iran on the horizon.
Against that background of strife and dangers on the world stage, it may seem as if Barack Obama's feelings, or Rudolph Giuliani's opinion about those feelings, should not matter so much, especially when it is hard to know with certainty how anyone feels. Yet when someone is the leader of a great nation at a historic juncture, it is more than idle curiosity to know what drives him.
It is not clear what the basis was for so much outrage at Mayor Giuliani's opinion about President Obama. Was it that what Giuliani said was demonstrably false? Was it that Barack Obama is supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty?
Anyone who simply looks at the factual evidence as to whether Obama loves America, or does not, will find remarkably little to suggest love and a large amount of evidence, over a long period of years, showing his constant close association with people fiercely hostile to this country. Jeremiah Wright was just one in a long series of such people.
Barack Obama's campaign promise to "fundamentally change the United States of America" hardly suggests love. Nor did his international speaking tour in 2009, telling foreign audiences that America was to blame for problems on the world stage.
President Obama's record in the White House has been more of the same. Among his earliest acts were offending our oldest and closest allies, Britain and Israel, and betraying the country's previous commitments to provide anti-missile defenses to Poland and the Czech Republic.
Obama's refusal to let Ukraine have weapons with which to defend itself from Russian invasion was consistent with this pattern, and consistent with his whispered statement -- picked up by a microphone that was still on -- to tell "Vladimir" that, after the 2012 election was over, he would be able to "have more 'flexibility.'"
Conceivably, these might all have been simply blunders. But such a string of blunders would require someone very stupid, and Barack Obama is by no means stupid. The net effect is that in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, America's allies and America's interests face far more setbacks and dangers today than when Obama took office.
His policies have been publicly criticized by two of his own former secretaries of defense, by two retired four-star generals who served during his administration, and a retired four-star admiral who also served in the Middle East during the Obama administration has called his policies "anti-American."
Some people who are denouncing former mayor Rudolph Giuliani seem to be saying that it is just not right to accuse a president of the United States of being unpatriotic. But when Barack Obama was a senator, that is precisely what he said about President George W. Bush. Where was the outrage then?
If all else fails, critics of Mayor Giuliani can say that a man is entitled to be considered "innocent until proven guilty." But that principle applies in a court of law. Outside a court of law, there is no reason to presume anyone innocent until proven guilty. It is especially dangerous to presume a president of the United States -- any president -- innocent until proven guilty.
Whoever is president has the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans, and the fate of a nation, in his hands. It is those millions of people and that nation who deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need to err on the side of safety for the people and the country. Squeamish politeness to an individual cannot outweigh that.
We need to keep that in mind for the next president, and for all future presidents. We might have been better off if the question of Obama's patriotism had been raised before he was first elected. Never should we ignore so many red flag warnings again.
There is little that can be done about President Obama now, no matter what he does. Impeachment, even if it succeeded, would mean Joe Biden as president and riots across the country. It is hard to know which would be worse.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94305. His website iswww.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page atwww.creators.com.