The movie of choice this week for people who hold the beliefs that
A) America is the strongest, best-est country that God ever virgin-birthed and
B) that that nation somehow just isn’t strong enough to survive eight years of centrist Democratic leadership, Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America actually does not touch on 2016 much at all.
Instead, it distills the anti-anticolonialist jeremiads of D’Souza’s books—which already were to academic argument what fruit snacks are to fruit—into a eminently fast-forwardable travelogue through Nairobi, Kenya, Indonesia, and a magic-hour D.C., where D’Souza slumps about Droopy Dog–style in contemplation of the monuments and where flags are forever dancing on winds that we must presume are the world’s most exceptional.
For what it’s worth, his thesis concerns the reasons Obama returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the British Embassy early in his presidency. The only answer D’Souza entertains: that
Obama is a Mau Mau anticolonial revolutionary driven to impress his dead, absentee father, a Kenyan who dared to write in 1965—two years after his homeland achieved its independence—that government regulation might sometimes be needed to rein in private industry.
You might object, “But Obama has spent almost zero percent of his life with that father, and something like 75 percent of his life in the same private schools and Ivy League universities and institutions of power occupied by every other president of either party in recent American history.” D’Souza’s counter is to brandish Obama’s memoir and proclaim, “Notice it says Dreams From My Father, not Dreams of My Father.”
Also: Bill Ayers! Jeremiah Wright! Edward Said, who once taught a class Obama took!
NYU psychology professor Paul Vitz shows up to explain that the father who abandons a boy has a profound influence on the shaping of that boy, an argument that lays bare D’Souza’s debased rules of evidence: the fact that Obama senior was never around to radicalize Obama junior only proves that he did radicalize Obama junior. That explains why junior later went on to fulfill the dream of all Kenyan revolutionaries of the 1960s: passing the health care plan Republicans came up with in the ’90s.
Now might be a prudent time to ask if, of all recent presidents, Obama is the one whose daddy issues have most endangered Americans.
Still, the film is a sleepy dud, a polemic that, like D’Souza himself, is at once both outrageous and deeply boring. Mostly well shot, it makes Michael Moore’s films look cheap by comparison, but Moore at least dares some adversarial interviews, and he bothers to chart a connection between government policy, corporate decision making, and the lives of actual people.
The best D’Souza comes up with is to try to make Obama look like an asshole for not taking care of that half brother who lived for a while in a Nairobi hut.
At first, this seems contradictory—if Obama were an anticolonial Marxist with Africa on the brain, certainly he would funnel some aid to his far-flung family, right? But D’Souza can fit any fact into his conspiracy. Turns out, George Obama—who appears in an interview—thinks Kenya would have been better off if it had let the white colonists run the place a few more years. The only possible conclusion, according to Mr. Dinesh D’Souza: Barack let George languish because George isn’t down with the revolution.
The only true surprise here is D’Souza’s haplessness in constructing both film and argument. Here’s the five funniest things that somehow wound up on-screen: