Review: 2016: Obama's America
At the conclusion of his film 2016: Obama's America, producer and star (or featured narrator, if you will) Dinesh D'Souza asks viewers whether we will pursue the American dream or Barack Obama's dream.
That dream, as D'Souza argues, is the defeat of oppressive colonialism that manifested itself in the rise of the United States as the dominant world power at the expense of the third world. In short, Obama seeks to right the wrongs identified by the most radical Communist sympathizers and activists of the post-World War II world, with Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. chief among them. D'Souza, utilizing Obama's first autobiography, Dreams from My Father, takes viewers along for a journey into Obama's upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia, and then to his alleged self-discovery in Kenya at his father's grave.
One aspect of the film that D'Souza may or may not have intended to come across is the fact that Obama's childhood story is actually quite sad. As the movie restates, Obama was shuffled about from Hawaii, Indonesia, and back to Hawaii. His father abandoned him and his mother to gallivant in North America and at Harvard, fathering several children by different women, all the while abusing some of those women and drinking heavily. D'Souza portrays the elder Obama as a frighteningly selfish and irresponsible lout.
Obama at times lived with his mother and her husband, Lolo Soetoro, in Indonesia. Interestingly, as D'Souza points out, Soetoro worked for an oil firm and was virulently anti-communist. However, Obama's mother rejected Soetoro and made it plain that Obama Senior's politics were honorable, Soetoro's dishonorable.
After a time, young Obama was shipped back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents there. Obama never really had a foundational home base, and his childhood brings to mind the term dislocated. In many respects, Obama was a lost little boy.
Along the way and throughout his life, as D'Souza shows, Obama has had a string of surrogates influencing him, people D'Souza calls "Obama's Founding Fathers." These include the Communist writer and activist Frank Marshall Davis, terrorist Bill Ayers, anti-Israeli crank Edward Said, Jeremiah Wright, and Brazilian Communist professor Roberto Unger. This series of father figures were in and out of his life at various intervals. The common thread among them, unfortunately, is that they marinated the young man in the swill of Marxist, anti-colonial propaganda, endorsed by the near-mystical specter of his missing father, that can be diluted thusly: the United States of America represents the greatest threat to mankind in the world and must be taken down.
D'Souza argues that Obama's policies can be easily traced to this worldview. Critics will no doubt huff that D'Souza is engaging in ridiculous pop psychology, particularly in his attempt to parallel his own experiences with colonialism in India to those of some of Obama's surrogates and of Obama's father. Perhaps. Yet the contempt with which Obama has treated Great Britain (notably his attempts to link his grandfather as a "servant" to the U.K. and opposition to Great Britain concerning the Falklands) and Israel, and his tacit and overt support for radical Islamic actions in the Middle East as the work of freedom-fighters, makes D'Souza's assertions compelling. So do, D'Souza argues, Obama's actions concerning the winnowing of the American nuclear arsenal to ostensibly level the nuclear playing field while dangerous governments in Russia, North Korea, and Iran increase their weaponry. It is the implementation of the theories expressed by Obama's father, Davis, and many of the president's surrogates.
D'Souza assembled an impressive roster of interviewees for the film, including AT contributor Paul Kengor, author Shelby Steele, scholar Daniel Pipes, Obama's half-brother in Kenya, and many others who deliver their insights into Obama's background and his policy choices from a number of different perspectives. Pipes sums things up succinctly when saying of Obama, "He doesn't think well of America."
D'Souza also includes conversations along his travels with lesser-known figures who knew Obama's father well and were acquainted with Obama's mother in Hawaii, as well as a specialist in the psychological aspects of children of absentee fathers. D'Souza mentions that the Brazilian Communist and Harvard professor Unger declined to be interviewed for the film; it would have been interesting to know other names from the left D'Souza attempted to get on camera.
Political reporters and commentators who participated in the mythmaking of the 2008 campaign and afterward should, after seeing this film, leave the theater kicking themselves for a missed golden opportunity. Had a one of them put into practice a third of the investigative scrutiny D'Souza applied to Obama's background, he or she could have gained everlasting fame and fortune. He or she would have also rendered a great service to his or her country, regardless of whether the electorate would have heeded the warning.
D'Souza's movie is significant and engrossing. The tactic of taking Obama's words in his book Dreams from My Father is keen. D'Souza leaves alone the very real possibility that Ayers wrote or re-wrote large portions of Dreams, though if he had pursued that line, it would have led back, as AT contributor Jack Cashill has demonstrated, to one of the "Obama Founding Fathers."
While one can look upon Obama's childhood and upbringing as sad tale, it is also true that he is a child of privilege who was afforded a lavish education from high school on. As D'Souza argues, Obama realized that Americans of goodwill were willing to help him advance -- in college, in law school, in politics -- and he capitalized on that help to present himself as a figure of unity while harboring the resentments of his surrogates. He had his chances, and he made his choices.
Obama chose to associate with, study under, emulate, and work alongside the worst this nation has to offer. D'Souza's film is but a visual version of what readers of this site have known for years: Barack Obama may be a natural-born American citizen, and he may be the American president. He may be from America, but he is not of America. Neither is his dream.
Matthew May welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.