The Most Ridiculous Piece of Obama Analysis Yet Written

The title of this post comes does not come from me. It comes from Daniel Larison, writing in The American Conservative.

In case you missed it, conservative pundit and president of The King’s College Dinesh D’Souza has claimed that some of Barack Obama’s policies–including his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan–stem from the anticolonialist beliefs of his father. Apparently anticolonialism can be passed along genetically.

Newt Gingrich has called D’Souza’s theory “the most stunning insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

On the other hand, Ramesh Ponnuru, writing at National Review Online, did not think D’Souza’s argument was particularly “stunning” or “profound.”

Larison pulls no punches, calling D’Souza’s views “simply stupid” and “inexcusably moronic.” Here is a taste:

Dinesh D’Souza has authored what may possibly be the most ridiculous piece of Obama analysis yet written. He takes a number of decisions Obama has made on a grab-bag of issues, declares that they are “odd,” and then proceeds to explain the “oddness” he has perceived by cooking up a bizarre thesis that Obama is a die-hard anticolonialist dedicated to his father’s anticolonialist legacy. That must be why he aspired to become President of the world’s remaining superpower and military hegemon–because he secretly loathes the exercise of Western power and wants to rein it in! It must be his deeply-held anticolonialist beliefs that have led him to escalate the U.S. role in Afghanistan, launch numerous drone strikes on Pakistan, and authorize the assassination of U.S. citizens in the name of antiterrorism. Yes, zealous anticolonialism is the obvious answer. Even for D’Souza, whose last book was a strange exercise in blaming Western moral decadence for Islamic terrorism, this is simply stupid. Perhaps most painful of all is D’Souza’s condescending claim that ignorant Americans aren’t familiar with anticolonialism, and that because he is an Indian he can educate all of us about it.

Even if Obama were anticolonialist, it wouldn’t actually explain why he is “anti-business,” but then you would have to believe that he is strongly anti-business in the first place. D’Souza’s initial assumption that Obama is “the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history” is not much more than assertion. Viewed from most places in the country, Obama does not appear anti-business at all, but rather he seems pitifully captive to business interests in the worst way. One can find this reassuring or disturbing, but that is the reality.

It is hardly necessary to delve deeply into the Kenyan past or trace the roots of anticolonialist thought to discern why Obama, a thoroughly conventional center-left Democrat, favors raising taxes on wealthier people. This is a standard part of the Democratic agenda and has been for the last decade. Having opposed tax cuts for wealthier Americans earlier in the decade, Democrats are continuing to be against them. This is not mystifying. What is a little mystifying is why so many conservative pundits and writers feel the need to construct preposterous, overly-complicated Obama theories to explain what is perfectly obvious and straightforward.

D’Souza’s comments on foreign policy are even more misguided. First of all, he lumps in the Park51 project with his discussion of Obama’s foreign policy. Last I checked, Manhattan was still part of the United States, so anything Obama had to say about this really wasn’t a matter of foreign policy. Proposing to use NASA in some sort of multiculti outreach is silly, but it doesn’t reflect latent anticolonialism. It represents a clumsy and pointless exercise in showing that the U.S. “respects” Muslims at the same time that it continues to occupy and bomb Muslim countries and subsidize and arm states that subject Muslims to political repression. It is an easy gesture that costs us nothing and means nothing. Given that NASA is an enormously wasteful and unnecessary government agency that serves no real purpose, I find it hard to see how making its mission as modest as possible is a bad thing.

D’Souza trots out the very tired, already old canard that Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism. Even though he repeatedly said that his life story was possible “only in America” and he has repeated countless times his belief in the uniqueness, special role and exceptional qualities of America, because of one ambiguous answer he gave in a press conference overseas his critics have managed to figure out that Obama rejects something he explicitly endorses. It should worry them that they are leaning so heavily on such a thin reed, but these critics seem oblivious to how weak their argument is.

2 thoughts on “The Most Ridiculous Piece of Obama Analysis Yet Written

  1. D'Souza spoke last year a Malone, and I was uneasy about some of his arguments.

    I can see him as a rising star with politically conservative evangelicals. He has a knack for saying things that they want to hear, while sounding both Christian and thoughtful.

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  2. I don't want to defend d'Souza chapter and verse, nor necessarily agree with his thesis, but I do agree with several commenters on Larison's piece that it was largely negation and dismissal, not counterargument.

    In fact, it's a little-known corollary of the “straw man argument” to engage only the other fellow's weakest arguments, not their best.

    Among D'Souza's strongest:

    But when asked at a 2009 press conference whether he believed in this ideal, Obama said no. America, he suggested, is no more unique or exceptional than Britain or Greece or any other country.

    His “granny” Sarah Obama (not his real grandmother but one of his grandfather's other wives) told Newsweek, “I look at him and I see all the same things–he has taken everything from his father. The son is realizing everything the father wanted. The dreams of the father are still alive in the son.”

    He titled one of his autobiographies “Dreams from my Father.” [I ain't read it.] D'Souza goes on at length on what his father believed, and it certainly was anti-colonialism to the point of radicalism. If not that anti-colonial radicalism, what exactly were those dreams from Obama's father that plug in so nicely with American [left-] centrism?

    Most damning [?] and puzzling [!] that D'Souza left it out, is Obama apparently quoting Rev. Wright approvingly:

    “It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That’s the world! On which hope sits!”

    “World in need, white man's greed” is anti-colonialism in a nutshell, colonialism being a white man's thing, and this is certainly a sentiment that Daddy Obama would have endorsed whole-heartedly.

    I'm not endorsing D'Souza's thesis, but Larison doesn't lay a glove on it, and I'm unconvinced any of us know the president's heart-of-hearts well enough to be certain there's nothing to it.

    A writer is allowed to muse. Larison is invited to countermuse, but his is far less substantive and more hyperbolic in rebuttal than the original essay.

    I do believe that Obama's unguarded remark about “flyover” America clinging to religion and guns was his honest sentiment, shaped by a life in America spent almost exclusively in elite schools with a dash of street-level politics in one of America's most racially divided cities.

    And so, D'Souza's summary of Obama's rejection of an “American exceptionalism” sounds in character.

    Forget about “the greatest country on God's green earth” or “in human history.” If the president were ever asked if on balance, on the whole, America has been a net positive or negative to mankind, I honestly don't think he'd could answer with an immediate and unequivocal “yes.”

    I think his reply would be lost in the mumblings of history.

    Does this make him an anti-colonialist? No. But I think his mumbling would do nothing to dispel the possibility.

    [Obama on “American exceptionalism” here. Eh. Mumble, mumble. D'Souza did summarize fairly fair.]

    And to disagree with meself a bit, I think Europe and its colonial history fairly sucks. I think white folk too reflexively defend Wurope from the anti-colonialists, and I do hold open the possibility that the president lumps America in with the Europeans.

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