The best way to verify a theory is to test its explanatory power. Our theory, derived from Obama’s testimony, is that he adopted his ideals from his father, and we know that his father’s ideals were anti-colonial ideals. Based on this, we are in a position to examine the merits of our theory by checking it against what Obama is actually saying and doing. If the theory can account for Obama’s major policies and enable us to predict what he is going to do in the future, then we are really onto something.
If Obama is vehemently opposed to a world defined in America’s image, to Pax Americana, then we would expect him to be cagey and defensive about displays of patriotism that convey America’s leadership in the world. Sure enough, a Time photograph from the presidential campaign shows Obama at a fundraising event with several other Democratic politicians. The magazine noted that the national anthem was playing, but the photo shows that Obama does not have his right hand over his heart. And he’s the only one: everyone else does! Network video footage of the event confirmed that Obama was the lone holdout in this traditional display of patriotic allegiance.
Once again, this could be dismissed as an isolated episode, and was so dismissed by Obama’s defenders. But a few months later, Obama announced that he would no longer wear a lapel pin with the American flag as had become customary for politicians and also many other public figures since the 9/11 attacks. “You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans,” Obama said. The pin, he contended, had become “a substitute for true patriotism.” On the face of it Obama’s comments are nonsensical; how can an American flag somehow undermine genuine patriotism? What Obama means of course is that patriotism of this sort is morally objectionable to him because of its associations with American invasions and American power. Obama clearly prefers the kind of patriotism that is not associated with the 9/11 attacks and America’s subsequent actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Obama’s ideology, we show our love for our country not through jingoistic flag-waving and foreign expeditions, but rather by agitating for domestic policies that take from the haves and give to those who don’t have as much.
Next let’s consider Obama’s response to the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As torrents of black oil gushed toward southern shores, Obama sounded lethargic, almost bored, with what was going on and what needed to be done to stop it. Even Democratic strategist James Carville expressed amazement at Obama’s personal and emotional remove from the situation. “I have no idea why they didn’t seize this thing. I have no idea why their attitude was so hands off here.” Listening to Obama talk on the subject, TV host Keith Olbermann responded: “It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days.”
Finally, addressing the TV cameras on May 14, 2010, Obama managed to work up some enthusiasm. Time and again he condemned “British Petroleum”—an interesting term since the company long ago changed its name to BP. Given our anti-colonial theory, it’s no surprise that Obama wanted to remind Americans of what BP used to stand for. He was equally outspoken in whacking the other oil companies for their “ridiculous spectacle” of “pointing fingers of blame.” Actually these companies were not responsible for the spill, and the only blame, in addition to that of BP, belonged to the Obama administration for its Katrina-like incompetence in responding to the disaster.
Addressing the nation on the spill on June 15, 2010, Obama stressed that Americans “consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s resources.” Obama went on to say that “for decades we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.” Unfortunately, “time and again the path forward has been blocked” by, among others, “oil industry lobbyists.” Now, on the face of it, this is a perfectly reasonable statement from a liberal politician who thinks this is what the American public wants to hear. But ask yourself, what does any of this have to do with the oil spill? Would the oil spill have been less of a problem if America consumed a mere 10 percent of the world’s resources? Of course not. The point is that for Obama the energy and environmental issues reduce to a simple proposition: America is a neocolonial giant eating up more than its share of the world’s resources, and in doing so America is exploiting the scarce fuel of the globe; consequently, this gluttonous consumption must be stopped. This is the heart of Obama’s energy and environmental agenda: not cleaning up the Gulf or saving the environment in general, but redressing the inequitable system where the neocolonial West—and neocolonial companies like BP—dominates the use of global energy resources.