Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

2016 Presidential Lineup Prospects: You Must Be Ready for Primetime

Feb 23, 2015

In 2004, I ran for president of the United States, entering the Democratic nominating process. Though I didn't get the votes I wanted, and never felt I was running for electoral victory, I still wanted to put certain policies and issues on the national agenda because they needed to be raised to a presidential level. Debating dozens of times with people like Senator John Kerry, Governor Howard Dean, General Wesley Clark, Governor Bob Graham and other top-tier candidates, I had to credibly hold my own on the stage. Aside from my commitment to raise issues like racial profiling, unfairness in the criminal justice system, opposition to the war in Iraq and marriage equality, I had to make sure I didn't stumble with other things that came up that had nothing to do with my focus. Whether General Wesley Clark was really a Democrat or Howard Dean's scream the night of the Iowa caucus and other side issues may dominate the news cycle for a day or two; your reaction or non-reaction can define your campaign. Apparently, that's something that Republican prospects for 2016 have forgotten as they stumbled, and in some cases, failed to react to Rudy Giuliani's over-the-top attacks against the president.

First of all, let's be clear about who Giuliani is: a faded, irrelevant Republican leader who seeks attention and will say and do ridiculous things in order to achieve that. Though I, myself, have been accused of seeking attention, I seek attention around issues, causes and cases; Giuliani seeks attention around attention. But beyond his motives, he creates a very dangerous environment by his sheer rhetoric. To question whether the sitting president of the United States loves the country and to say that he was raised differently than us -- whatever that means -- sends a coded message of being other than us. He suggested President Obama was influenced by those that believe in socialism and anti-colonialism (maybe George Washington helped to influence him growing up since the American revolution was about anti-colonialism.) But what's just as troubling as Giuliani's words is the fact that none of the current major Republican candidates truly denounced his outrageous comments.

Scott Walker, who was present as Giuliani made his preposterous statements at a fundraiser in New York, didn't stop or condemn the remarks. Other than Marco Rubio, who, to his credit, said he believes the president loves America, but doesn't agree with his ideas, everyone else has either been silent or failed to condemn the statements. Where's Jeb Bush? Where's Chris Christie? And Scott Walker, who says he doesn't know if the president is a Christian or not? A sensible answer would be to simply say that's what he professes and I have no reason to dispute it. None of us know who is Christian unless we're Christ; we can only go by representations we make -- something Giuliani clearly disregards.

When we seek a president, we don't look for a candidate that just has great talking points; we seek a person that has the ability, character and instincts to govern. If your instincts can't make you do what is right because the extreme base of your party may be annoyed, then what can we expect if you sat in the oval office? People are not on the inside of a baseball game; people are in their living rooms watching politics like they do sports and other matters in primetime. What you do and don't do on the unexpected issues forms a profile in people that says you oughta be on another stage rather than the main stage.

The position of president of the United States is arguably the most powerful in the world. If you don't have the sense, backbone or capability to denounce clearly inflammatory and inappropriate statements, then what makes you think you can ever make the tough decisions required of a president? And more importantly, what makes you think that the citizens of the United States believe you can make those decisions?

Not only are you are unable to hold the most coveted position in the nation, you're not even ready to run for it.