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.