Sunday, August 26, 2012

2016: Obama's America. A Review


If it's an election year, it's another onslaught of political documentaries.  In 2004 you had Fahrenheit 9/11, an anti-George W. Bush ad all but in name. It didn't help defeat President Bush, but a good try nonetheless.

In 2010 I saw I Want Your Money (a virtual celebration of the Tea Party Movement).  I was probably one of a handful who DID see it, and while it's a safe bet it didn't move many minds in fairness the Republicans did win back the House of Representatives a mere two years after the Democratic sweep into power.

Now, in the 'what's sauce for the goose' mindset, we have 2016: Obama's America, an anti-Barack Obama ad all but in name.  Based on author Dinesh D'Souza's The Roots of Obama's Rage, 2016 states its case that President Obama's past, in particular his near-idolization of his father Barack, Sr., along with his family and mentor's worldview of hostility towards America in both concept and actions has led the President to adopt his policies at home and abroad.  These policies, D'Souza argues, will make and have made America weaker.  It isn't because Obama hates America, but because Obama has been brought up to believe America has been an imperialist force.  Thus, it behooves him to level the playing field so to speak, and thus the second Obama Administration would lead to a diminishing American influence and power because it is, in the President's mind, the only fair thing to do.

Most of 2016 deals with Obama's life and how, in D'Souza's thinking, the President became the man and political figure he became.  Those expecting a devastating hit job won't find it here.  Those who find the President to be near-divine will bristle at the idea that the President sees America as a negative force in the world.  However, as a film it is an interesting exploration of how one son of an immigrant sees another son of an immigrant.

 In a slow and methodical manner, D'Souza states his case.  He contrasts his own immigrant journey from India to the United States to that of Barack Obama, Sr.  In D'Souza's telling, both he and Obama, Sr. came to America, but saw different things.  D'Souza saw the promise of America: the ability to advance far beyond anything he could have achieved in an independent India, while Obama, Sr. saw the effects of Western domination on his independent Kenya.

The contrast is most strikingly brought up on the issue of the Winston Churchill bust.  President George W. Bush proudly displayed it in the Oval Office and was very partial to the 'special relationship' between the United Kingdom and the United States.  President Obama, on the other hand, promptly returned the Churchill bust to the British Embassy and appeared to wish closer ties to the Argentines, going so far as to take their side in the almost never-ending struggle between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands. 

This, D'Souza argues, is contrary to long-term policy to side with our long-time ally or keep out of this.  Obama, D'Souza further contends, also favors the Arab Palestinians over the bipartisan support Israel has enjoyed for all of its existence.  Obama opposes drilling for America, both offshore and through the Keystone Pipeline, but funds oil exploration in Brazil and Mexico.

Why, D'Souza asks, would the President of the United States support policies and positions that appear almost contrary to the benefit of the nation he was elected to lead?

The answer, he argues, is that since birth (which, to his credit, D'Souza clearly states was in Hawaii), Barack Obama II has been bred to see colonialism in everything he sees. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, for example, grew disenchanted with her second husband, Indonesian Lolo Soetero, when he appeared to abandon an anti-Western, anti-capitalist mindview and start having economic success Western-style.  In short, Soetero was selling out, and Dunham in turn began to find her second husband failed to keep to her ideals.  Morevoer, Dunham continuously kept the idea of a near-saintly image of Barack Obama, Sr. to her son.

In the island state of Hawaii, we find that the idea of oppressive Western colonialism is far from dead.  D'Souza contends that elements of the Hawaiian population are not only still bitter about the removal of the Hawaiian royal house and forced annexation but still believe this illegal action by then-President McKinley should be overturned.

Over and over, from Miss Dunham's ideas of the evils of the West, through the idolization of the anti-colonialist Barack, Sr., the resentment of the native Hawaiians over annexation and statehood, the mentoring of Barack Obama II from a Frank Marshall Davies: a devout Communist and close friend of his equally radical Grandfather Stanley Dunham, it was drilled into young Barry how the West was a source of misery throughout the world.  As such, Barry would do what his sainted father could not do: he would rearrange the world so as to give the oppressed peoples a fair shake.

D'Souza's main argument is that the anti-colonialism of Barack, Sr. was one that became anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, and anti-American.  As such, President Obama's push for government takeover of the health care system, his overtures to the Muslim world (from his famous Cairo speech to, in what I consider a bizarre turn, using NASA for Islamic outreach), and his favoring of the Arab Palestinians over the Jewish Palestinians/Israelis (a strange turn given that American Jews tend to support Democrats in large numbers). 

America is an unfair place because it has too much and there are too many One PercentersD'Souza argues, the President doesn't see American exceptionalism.  D'Souza further argues that while the nations that have turned away from the socialist models Obama wishes America to adopt (D'Souza's own India, South Korea, China, Obama's own stepfather's Indonesia) are thriving because they have adopted the American model. 

After laying out his case, D'Souza now turns briefly to the election, where he says the American public saw what it wanted to see: a quiet black man who would unite the nation.  They did not see America as Barry did, and minus Reverend Wright's delightful thoughts on America, the public was basically sold a bill of goods about the President, with a willing press unwilling to attack a man because of his biracial status. 

Finally, we move on to what D'Souza sees as what can happen to the United States should President Obama win a second term.  He sees debt growing to almost-Greek levels, which would put us in parity with the long-suffering Third World which we have been exploiting.  It would lead to an America where our 5,000 nuclear missiles would shrink to a-now 1,500, then to a mere 300 before being reduced to zero.  Iran and North Korea and Pakistan, however, would go unchecked to grow more bombs, in keeping with the President's ideas of fairness.  Finally, the President, he argues, would not move against a nuclear Iran and wouldn't intervene should the various Arab states join in a United States of Islam, with Israel caught in the middle. 

Will we then, choose to re-elect Barack Hussein Obama II?  It is now in our hands.

2016 is a strong case not particularly for why people should vote against President Obama but as to how our family history and influences, in particular by the President's father, who was already married when he and Miss Dunham were married and whom Barry met only once, shaped the views of how he governs.  D'Souza never says that the President believes America to be evil or that he's some sort of Manchurian Candidate who will bring down the nation.  Rather, D'Souza makes his case that the President was shaped by how Obama, Sr. saw the world and how in a way, Barry would pick up the mantle for his almost-sacred father.

I can boil down 2016 thus: we are all products of our past and experiences, and Barack Hussein Obama's past and experiences is filled with a sense that the West has been so exploitative that his policies would reflect a desire to correct the mistakes of the past.  Obama, D'Souza argues, is haunted by the dreams of his father, a man who had that anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, and anti-American worldview. 

In terms of production value, 2016 disproves my long-held belief that conservatives cannot make documentaries.  Almost all the previous non-fiction films that tauted a right-wing view were abysmal to look at, poorly constructed and almost laughable.  2016, however, breaks with tradition: the narrative is one where D'Souza takes his time to build his case, going over how the President's past (even before his birth) shaped his worldview.  Thus, is it not logical that the President would pursue policies that would fit that worldview (even if, D'Souza argues, it goes against American interests)? 

The evils of colonialism as Obama was taught to see it: from the stories Dunham told her son about her Kenyan ex-husband, from his experiences in Indonesia and even Hawaii, so shaped the President's ideology that now that he's in a position of power he will follow through to correct the errors of the past.  Barack Hussein Obama, father and son, have the same worldview in D'Souza's argument, and thus what the father could not do the son will do.

I'm not here to discuss whether D'Souza is right or wrong or whether President Obama deserves a second term.  That is ultimately up to the viewer and/or voter.  What I can say is that 2016 is more about how the President became the President he is (for good or bad) than it is about how America would be at the end of a second Obama term.  That is speculation on D'Souza's part.

As it stands, 2016 is a well-made film that makes its case about how the President came to be, less about why Obama should be retired or what America would look like at the end of an eight-year term of office.  I can't condemn a film for being well-crafted, even if I were to disagree with it.  We shall see whether 2016 is either prophesy or fantasy.

DECISION: C+               

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