Recently I went on an angry tare over Dinesh D’Souza’s horrifying work of fiction “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of The Democratic Party” but here is my far less angry review of his first film “2016 – Obama’s America” from 2012. Note how calm I am here. What a difference four years makes.
There may be no other president in American history that has brought about more speculation or more contention of opinion than Barak Hussein Obama II. When the final history is written, the Obama administration will be looked on and studied for generations to come, perhaps for different reasons than most. Whether you believe that Obama was an effective leader or just a do-nothing figure-head; a game-changer or a starry-eyed dreamer, there is just something absent about our understanding of the 43rd man to occupy the highest office in the land.
That absence of understanding is at the heart of 2016: Obama’s America, a documentary that tries to dig under the life and history of Barak Obama and uncover what brought him to the White House despite the fact that he had been in politics for only a decade. The movie is very anti-Obama, but it isn’t all fire and brimstone. Here is a film that asks tough questions about the president’s past and how it affects his agenda as the leader of the free world. Narrated and hosted by political commentator and author Dinesh D’Souza, based on his book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”, 2016: Obama’s America is not so much a case of blind rabble-rousing as it is D’Souza’s own intelligent, literate essay that speculates on who Obama is and what is plans are for the future. The speculations aren’t just fear and doom, but are presented as reasonable assessments of the president’s personal history and what he has done in the White House over the last four years. Whether the facts are straight or spotty is left to the viewer. You can question his facts, but you can’t question D’Souza’s skill at making an effective argument in favor of voting for someone else.
D’Souza, an Indian born in Mumbai who came to America to attend Dartmouth College, spends most of the film tracing the origins of a president that he feels that Americans don’t really know. He questions why Americans passed over two well-known politicians, John McCain and Hilary Clinton in order to elect a young, unseasoned politician who had served on the Illinois State Senate for seven years and then served in the U.S. Senate for only three. Who was he? What did we know about him? What did he mean when he promised “Hope.” Hope for what? Were people nervous his Muslim background while we were still at war in the Middle East? Was Obama elected based on the color of his skin? These are question that he asks then goes out looking for answers.
In order to dig under those questions D’Souza spends the first half of the movie tracing Obama’s background. Using as a template of information, the president’s 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father,” we see that Obama’s father Barak Obama Sr., a Kenyan economist, was absent for most of Barak Jr.’s life and this absence left a far-reaching drive to prove himself. The bullet-point of young Barak’s ambition, D’Souza speculates, came from his father’s death in an automobile accident in 1982. For most of his life, he was raised by his mother and Ann and his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro.
We are also introduced to some of Obama’s mentors that the Democrats attempted to sweep under the rug as Obama approached the White House, namely Frank Marshall Davis, a controversial figure who seemed to have had connections with The Communist Party. Also Bill Ayers, a former anti-Vietnam protestor who had been a radical in the 60s and 70s and conducted bombings of public buildings. Then, of course, Jeremiah Wright whose acid-tongued sermons about how America deserved 9/11 surfaced early in Obama’s administration.
The populist rabble-rousing is left for the film’s second half in which D’Souza speculates on how the president got elected and what he plans to do with the next four years. While interviewing experts, he speculates that Obama’s mere image got him elected because he didn’t fit the mold of “the angry black man”. Unlike previous office-seekers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Obama seemed less radical (or un-radical) and more appealing to young white Americans. The problem was that no one seemed willing to question him. D’Souza questions whether or not Americans were so blinded by their love for Obama that they simply didn’t want to hear anything negative. Obama was clean-cut, young, seemingly idealistic, and so devoid of scandals and controversies (at least during his campaign) that people voted for him out of emotion.
The film ends with speculation of what the next four years will look like. Having been through the first four years and needing to get re-elected, D’Souza speculates that Obama will take off the gloves. There will be no holding back on his agenda to open up relations with the Middle East, thereby softening America’s strength that is keeping radical terrorists at bay.
Of course, all of this can be viewed as hearsay. Whether you agree with D’Souza’s position is most likely a case of which side of the aisle on which you happen to stand. This is a well-made film, but at its core is still pure propaganda. D’Souza is smart to focus squarely on Obama and not to promote the other side because doing so would tip the film over into mud-slinging.
The movie isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind, but D’Souza’s approach is to be admired. He tries to see the facts as Obama has spelled them out in his own book and also from his actions as commander-in-chief. Unlike Michael Moore who operates on a bullying interview-style, D’Souza attempts to be more of a journalist. Both Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America have the same agenda. They want to sway you to keep from reelecting someone that they feel will do more harm than good. The difference is that Moore’s film wanted to anger you, while D’Souza’s wants you to think before you vote.