Even before his new book hit the shelves, the Left was already in a tizzy over Dinesh D’Souza’s look at the moral and intellectual foundation of Barack Obama’s ideology. Here is the first of three-parts excerpted from D’Souza’s The Roots of Obama’s Rage.
Barack Obama is a radiant figure on the world stage. He looks the way an American president should look, and he talks the way many in the world want the American president to talk. As a personality, he conveys dignity and calm; he seems to be what Aristotle called the great-souled man.
Obama is also a consequential president. Less than two years into his first term, he has revamped the Bush administration’s foreign policy: no more invasions, no more preemptive wars, plans for withdrawals both from Iraq and Afghanistan, a new approach for punishing terrorists, and in general a very different understanding of America’s role in the world. At the same time, Obama has transformed the relationship between American citizens and their government. He has passed the most significant raft of laws since the Great Society: the bank rescue plan, the auto industry bailout, the stimulus package, sweeping regulation of Wall Street, a complete remaking of the health care system.
So far, conservative opposition to Obama has been shrill, focusing on several familiar themes: Obama is not an American citizen; Obama is a pawn of radical extremists; Obama is an unscrupulous power-seeker; Obama is a Muslim; and Obama is a socialist. These javelins, however, have at best grazed Obama; they have not fully found their target. Was Obama born in America? The best evidence is that he was. He was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961. His birth was mentioned in two local papers, the Honolulu Sunday Advertiser and the Star Bulletin. This makes him a “natural born” American, as the Constitution requires of a president. No evidence has been produced that Obama is anyone’s pawn. Sure, there are radical elements associated with him, but quite possibly they are his pawns. Obama is certainly ambitious, and like most presidents he seeks power, but power to do what? Power for what end?
I certainly don’t think that Obama is a closet Muslim extremist who seeks to destroy America from within. The charge of socialism, now furiously leveled against Obama, seems to bring us closer to the mark. Here is a president who has no business background and very few people with business experience around him; as he goes about slicing the economic pie, it is not clear that he has any idea how to make a pie. More troubling, Obama is a president who spends the taxpayer’s money with shameless promiscuity. Still, the charge of socialism isn’t quite right. Even if it could account for Obama’s economic policy, it certainly could not explain his foreign policy.
To grasp Obama’s story, we have to put aside the multicultural mantras and the conservative boilerplate and enter Obama’s world. Imagine a little boy growing up in the sunbathed beauty of Hawaii, soaking in the culture, hearing about how the innocent natives were crushed and overrun by horrible invaders and profiteers. Imagine a slightly older child on a bicycle on the crowded streets of Indonesia, learning from his stepfather the harsh code of a developing country, shaped out of the history of European colonialism. Now imagine a young man undertaking a journey to Kenya, for many people a journey to nowhere, but for him a journey to his own past, where through inner soul-searching and conversations with relatives he discovers who his father really was, and what he must do to make good on the dead man’s unfulfilled dreams. This is Barack Obama. But for him these aren’t imaginings; they are memories. These memories are formed out of the indelible ink of experience, and they have by his own account marked the man. By attentively examining his experience as he tells it himself, and as elaborated by others who have researched his background, we can understand Obama in a way that he has not been understood before.
He is his father’s son, and his dreams are derived from his father’s aspirations and failures. Everyone who knows Obama well says this about him. Obama of course makes the same point in his title Dreams from My Father and his whole book is an elaboration of how he internalized his father’s dreams and goals. Obama calls his memoir “the record of a personal, interior journey” a boy’s search for his father and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American. And again, “It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa, that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself.”
Who was Barack Obama Sr.? First and foremost, he was an anti- colonialist. This Obama was an economist, and as an economist he was influenced by socialism, but he was never a doctrinaire socialist; rather, his quasi-socialism sprang from and was integrated into an anti-colonial outlook that was shared by many of his generation, not only in Africa but also in Asia and South America.
I am not suggesting that Obama has a comprehensive knowledge of anti-colonialism. I admit that Obama must occasionally and pragmatically bend to the realities of a given situation or to the exigencies of politics. Still, Obama’s anti-colonialism is deeply felt, and it suffuses his writings and speeches. In fact, it is the moral and intellectual foundation of his ideology. In a sense, I am saying nothing more than what Obama himself says: that his father’s dream has become his dream. It is a dream that, as president, he is imposing with a vengeance on America and the world.
First of three-part series.
Adapted from The Roots of Obama’s Rage by Dinesh D’Souza (Regnery, 2010.) Which is available in stores and on Amazon today.