In creating this movie, author Dinesh D’Souza teamed with Hollywood producer Gerald Molen, who brought us a number of significant films, including Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and – one my favorites – Rain Man. I doing so, he has accomplished something that many conservatives have unsuccessfully attempted: the creation of a polished, compelling, and beautifully filmed documentary. Since most people in the film industry lean heavily to the left of the political spectrum, conservatives have historically been at a disadvantage when it comes to persuading people on an emotional level.
For this reason, it’s tempting to categorize this movie as a conservative version of a Michael Moore movie. Since I’ve never actually seen a Michael Moore movie, I can’t really say for sure, but I suspect that it mirrors Moore’s films in at least two ways: (1) they are both presented as documentaries, yet both have an obvious bias and an obvious agenda, and (2) they will not change the minds of very many people. Judging from the appearance and reactions of the folks in the theater Friday night, I’m guessing D’Souza was “preaching to the choir”.
D’Souza begins by sharing his upbringing in India, where a strong anti-colonial, anti-British, and in fact anti-western attitude in still present. This gives him a unique perspective on the culture of a formerly colonized society: one that most Americans cannot easily comprehend, but that is the dominant culture of Barack Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr. D’Souza traces Obama’s roots by traveling the world, researching and interviewing everyone from psychologists to acquaintances of Obama’s father. He then uses this information to conjecture that Obama’s upbringing, and a supposed desire to live up to the ideals of the father he barely knew, has created in him a strong anti-colonial – and thus to some degree anti-western and anti-American – worldview. It is this worldview that drives him to bring America down a notch and level the world’s playing field by reducing status and strength of the last remaining superpower.
I tried to watch the movie through the eyes of an Obama supporter (no easy task for me, by the way), looking for any hidden agendas, biases, half-truths, or outright falsehoods. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while there was an obvious agenda and obvious bias, there was no attempt to hide this fact. In his introduction, D’Souza tells us that he worked for the Reagan campaign during his formative years and makes it clear that he approaches the film from a conservative perspective. He states up front that he is critical of Obama’s actions in office, and makes clear that the purpose of the film is to explore Obama’s motivation for enacting policies and taking actions that D’Souza believes are harmful to America.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that D’Souza flatly states that Obama was born in Hawaii. No paranoid “birther” or Manchurian Candidate conspiracies here, and no racism evident at all. I did, however, see what I believe to be at least one half-truth. In repeating the story of Obama returning a bust of Churchill to Britain, D’Souza treats it as a political gaffe and an insult to the British people, attributing it to Obama’s supposed anti-colonialism. A little research indicates that the truth is probably more benign, and D’Souza certainly would have known this. The fact that he presented it with such a slant makes me question the veracity of some of the other claims made in the movie.
I already knew many of the characters introduced in the film, such as Obama’s teenage exposure to card-carrying-communist Frank Marshall Davis, his acquaintance with radical leftist Bill Ayers, and his close association with his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright. The movie provides enlightening information about these connections – especially Davis – and introduces a host of other characters. In one of the most interesting scenes, D’Souza interviews Obama’s half-brother George, who lives in poverty in Kenya. D’Souza’s agenda was apparent as he tried to get George to criticize Barack for not being “his brother’s keeper”, but George didn’t take the bait. He demonstrated a very independent attitude, and didn’t seem to want a handout from his far-away half-brother, saying in essence that Barack is busy fulfilling his obligations to his wife and kids, and has his hands full with the new job. George is happy taking care of himself. Fully African, George didn’t look much like Barack, but he shared his sibling’s cool, confident, and aloof demeanor, and there were occasional startling flashes of our President in his eyes.
The most powerful and convincing element of the film is the use of Obama’s own words, taken from his book “Dreams From My Father”. Using clips from the audio version of the book, we hear Obama’s own words in his own voice. D’Souza may be only speculating about some of the things inside Obama’s head, but hearing Obama’s words in his own voice adds a kind of emotional credibility to the film.
In the end, I walked out of the theater with a bit of a chill down my spine, even as I felt a bit manipulated by the melodramatic tone and a little suspicious of some of the facts as presented. D’Souza inches right up to the line of paranoid conspiracy theory without crossing it. His hypothesis that Obama is intentionally damaging America as retribution for sins against his father is a stretch.
I don’t believe President Obama’s intentions are nefarious, or that he consciously wants to destroy the country. But it is a fact that Obama was born to a mother who was outspoken in her anger towards America and capitalism. It is a fact that his father, though he had little contact with him, was active in anti-western, anti-colonial politics, and that his beliefs and dreams had a significant impact on the younger Obama. It is a fact that throughout his life, Barack Obama has been surrounded, influenced, mentored, and advised by people on the extreme left… people that have not hidden the fact that they hold Marxist, Socialist, and even Communist views. To believe that Obama’s worldview has not been shaped by their values is to deny common sense.
Obama does not think he is destroying America. He thinks he is improving it. He told us he planned to “fundamentally transform” it. This movie helps explain what he meant by those words, why he said them, and what America might look like if we give him four more years to continue the transformation. For that reason, I think it serves an important role, and I encourage everyone to see it.