Critic Review for 2016: Obama's America on washingtonpost.com
“I’m not trying to bash Obama in a crude way,” Dinesh D’Souza says in a TV news clip featured in the conservative writer and commentator’s new documentary “2016: Obama’s America.” It’s a comment recycled from one of D’Souza’s many media appearances in defense of his well-known, earlier attacks on the president, both in a controversial 2010 Forbes magazine cover story and two subsequent books, on which this film is based.
One thing can be said for “2016.” It’s anything but crude. The best infomercials rarely are.
And, make no mistake, D’Souza’s documentary profile of President Obama -- which is like his earlier writing attempts to portray its subject as not just anti-capitalist but anti-American -- is just that: a slick infomercial. As these things go, the movie seems destined to irritate the president’s supporters while mobilizing his detractors, even as it is doomed to win precious few converts. It’s a textbook example of preaching to the choir.
D’Souza, who narrates the film with the buttery smoothness of a therapist, intersperses talking-head interviews with footage of himself poring over Obama’s memoir “Dreams from My Father,” like a psychological detective, while visiting Indonesia, Hawaii and Kenya. As readers of the Forbes article know, the central thesis of “2016” is that Obama’s worldview -- his “compass,” as D’Souza calls it -- was largely shaped by the anti-colonialist, anti-white and anti-Christian politics of Obama’s supposedly radical Kenyan father. Never mind that Obama, growing up, spent precious little time with the man, who for most of his son’s early life was estranged from Obama’s mother. D’Souza trots out a professional psychologist to speculate on how the senior Obama’s absence reinforced his influence, rather than weakened it.
D’Souza makes it all sound almost plausible, but only if you’re predisposed to believe that Obama hates America. It’s bashing, all right, but with a velvet-gloved fist.
Why is the film called “2016”? D’Souza’s one-sided argument ultimately stoops to fear-mongering of the worst kind, stating in no uncertain terms that, if the president is reelected, the world four years from now will be darkened by the clouds of economic collapse, World War III (thanks to the wholesale renunciation of our nuclear superiority) and a terrifyingly ascendant new “United States of Islam” in the Middle East. These assertions are accompanied by footage of actual dark clouds and horror-movie music.
The real bogeyman isn’t Obama, who D’Souza acknowledges can come across as an appealing and charismatic leader. That honor is shared by several men D’Souza refers to as Obama’s “founding fathers,” in an unsubtle dig at the president’s patriotism. It’s a group that includes communist Frank Marshall Davis; former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers; academic Edward Said, whose views are described as anti-Zionist; liberal Harvard professor Roberto Unger; and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a proponent of so-called black liberation theology.
None of the names of these putative villains is new, which gives “2016” the air of a “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, pandering to the franchise’s hard-core fans, while boring everyone else.
Watch trailer: 2016: Obama's America | Official Movie Site