I once had to write a college term paper for a course that had a 900-page textbook. Rather than plow through the whole book, I pulled a dozen paragraphs at random and built a paper around them that supported the beliefs of the instructor. The pandering conclusion was fleshed out with some third-party support that had been invented out of thin air. I’m not proud, but it earned me a 3.5, which only strengthened my theory — you can always win an argument if you support the views of the judge.
It appears filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza employs similar tactics to cobble together his “documentary,” “2016: Obama’s America.” He supports a right wing-appealing argument with a mélange of psycho babble, factual distortions and pure BS. D’Souza even uses quotations from his own books and articles — how incredibly freshman comp.
You can argue about the film’s techniques, the relevance of the interviews and the meaning of the conclusions. Instead, let’s focus on D’Souza’s thesis: President Obama is a secret anti-colonialist socialist who hates our traditional allies and wants to bring the West down to a Third World level.
The film gets one thing right — Barack Obama was indeed born in Hawaii. But then D’Souza says that Hawaii isn’t really American, its former independence and geographic detachment making it a foreign environment. The mind reels at his thoughts on Alaska and a certain former vice presidential candidate.
D’Souza spends most of the film examining both his own life as an immigrant from India and the life and times of Barack Obama Sr., as depicted in the president’s first book, “Dreams from My Father.” It is widely known that Obama Sr. played virtually no role in Obama Jr.’s upbringing, yet D’Souza suggests that the president inherited an anti-American philosophy from a man he barely knew. (If we accept D’Souza’s primary thesis that fathers mold the politics of the son, we would have to conclude that Mitt Romney shares the tax-and-spend progressive political views of his father, George Romney, who was pro-choice, created Michigan’s personal and business income taxes and nearly tripled the state budget during his six years as governor.)
A random sampling of the film’s “facts,” and their rebuttals:
• D’Souza blames the nation’s $16 trillion deficit solely on Obama, giving only passing mention to the structural deficit created before Obama took office. He makes no mention of the 2008 global financial crisis, and conveniently fails to note that the Obama administration has begun reducing the deficit, which the CBO projects is down about $200 billion from last year. (CBO report, Aug. 21, 2012.)
• D’Souza attacks the president’s efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles, conveniently ignoring the fact that the process of worldwide nuclear disarmament began under Ronald Reagan and has continued under every president since. D’Souza labels Obama’s call for a world without nukes as a “dreamy idea,” somehow forgetting Reagan’s call for “the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.” (Ronald Reagan, Second Inaugural Address, Jan. 21, 1985.)
• D’Souza says that Obama returned a bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had been presented to George W. Bush. This apparently shows Obama’s disdain for Britain’s colonial history, but the real story is pretty dull: the bust had been on loan to the White House from the British for the duration of the Bush administration. According to the White House curator, the piece was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office. Never mind that there’s another bust of Churchill in the president’s private residence. (Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2012.)
• He claims Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions. There can be legitimate debate over the president’s strategy of imposing sanctions on Iran to halt the nuclear program, but the contention that nothing has been done is patently false. (White House Fact Sheet, July 31, 2012.)
• He claims that President Obama passed the bank bailout (TARP), even though it actually passed during the Bush administration. Obama, who was a senator at the time, did support TARP … along with President Bush, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Sarah Palin, GOP House Leader John Boehner and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. (factcheck.org, multiple articles.)
• He says Obama spent $2 billion to fund oil exploration in Brazil, a claim that has been thoroughly discredited by numerous sources. (factcheck.org, Sept. 18, 2009.)
• He charges the president supported Scotland’s release of Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, even though the administration actually had this to say: “As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland.” (White House statement, Aug. 20, 2009.)
• He accuses the president of supporting the return of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina. In reality, the administration remains officially neutral but recognizes U.K.’s de facto administration of the Falklands. (U.S. State Department statement, Jan. 19, 2012.)
• D’Souza calls Obama “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This should come as a surprise to the late Osama bin Laden and other terrorists who have been killed by the United States military.
Since it opened in July, “2016” has made over $32 million— good enough for No. 5 on the list of all-time top-grossing documentaries. Bloomberg News called it “a nutty film.” Variety, a normally apolitical publication, called the film “a cavalcade of conspiracy theories, psycho-politico conjectures and incendiary labeling.” To me, however, it’s just a Sacha Baron Cohen movie without the laughs … and 90 minutes I’ll never get back.