Where D’Souza hits storytelling gold is in his take on the recent controversy over President Obama’s return of a bust of Winston Churchill that had been in the Oval Office to the British government soon after he took office. Churchill was prime minister in the 1950s, when Kenya’s colonial government crushed the Mau Mau rebellion. His father claimed he was arrested by the British and other members of the family were interned.
When columnist Charles Krauthammer last month repeated the charge that the Churchill statue had been returned, the White House went into bizarre overdrive to deny the story as “100 percent false.” Within days, the source of the confusion was revealed: The bust in question had been returned (as had been widely reported long before Krauthammer’s column), but a diffferent copy of the sculpture remains in the White House collection.
D’Souza’s film is perfectly pitched for conservatives who are skeptical of Obama’s motives but reject the bizarre theories that he wasn’t born in the U.S. (To his credit, D’Souza shoots down that premise early on.) But the film may also appeal to independents who have more questions about Obama than they did when they voted for him in 2008. Its production values are solid — it was produced by Gerald Molen, who was in charge of bringing Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List to the big screen. Some preview showings in Houston were outgrossed only by the new Ice Age and Spider-Man movies. That augurs well for the film’s ability to succeed based on word of mouth.
Dinesh D’Souza obviously wants his film to be taken seriously, and it deserves to be. In a couple places, however, it falls short in predicting where Obama, the anti-capitalist opponent of colonialism, would take America in his second term. I don’t think Obama’s move to reduce U.S. nuclear stockpiles from 5,000 warheads to 2,500 are quite as serious as D’Souza seems to. But the film scores points by highlighting Obama’s bizarre reluctance to develop North American oil and gas reserves while encouraging developing nations to develop theirs.
No one can really claim they know exactly what makes the president tick. But 2016: Obama’s America leaves enough clues on the table to make us wonder if we would be taking an even bigger risk in reelecting him than we took in 2008. After all, we’ve never observed the actions of a Barack Obama who knows he will never have to face an electorate again.
— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.