The latest line of attack on Mitt Romney by Obama supporters is the most breathtaking yet: Romney, we are told, is a stealth candidate.
Michael Tomasky, who wrote the controversial Newsweek cover story declaring that Romney is a “wimp,” now accuses Romney of a “desire to sneak into the White House all but unexamined by voters.”
Holy Double Standard! Romney certainly could have handled the release of his tax returns better, and it’s likely he is concealing embarrassing details. But Barack Obama, aided and abetted by a subservient media, spent much of his 2008 campaign trying to conceal his radical roots and evading questions about his past. Stanley Kurtz, the author of the new Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, has demonstrated convincingly that the Obama campaign lied to reporters (including me) about Obama’s involvement with the socialist New Party and his work for the infamous ACORN operation (which subsequently went bankrupt following a 2009 scandal).
Similarly, scholar Paul Kengor has written a new book on Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s teenage mentor, entitled “The Communist.” Dave Weigel of Slate acknowledges that “Kengor’s bang-on right: Davis was an avowed Communist, and the media of 2008 didn’t care.” But Weigel thinks “Obama never pretended not to know Davis” and notes that Davis appears as the black-power advocate “Frank” in the president’s 1995 book Dreams from My Father. True enough, but Obama was certainly leery of too much scrutiny of Davis: The audio version of Dreams, read by Obama himself, removes all 24 references to “Frank” that appear in the printed text. Why the difference? Perhaps because the audio version wasn’t recorded until 2005, when newly elected U.S. senator Barack Obama was already contemplating a run for the White House.
Trying to figure out what makes Barack Obama tick, what influenced his thinking, and where he might take the country in a second term is the purpose of Dinesh D’Souza’s new $2.5 million documentary 2016: Obama’s America, which will premiere in hundreds of theaters on August 10. D’Souza, a bestselling author and the president of King’s College in New York, emigrated from India as a boy, and he says he understands something of how Obama’s exotic upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia might have shaped his view of America. But D’Souza, a conservative, sees America as a land of tolerance and opportunity. He believes Obama “adopted his [anti-colonialist] father’s position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America.” That may be stretching things just a bit, but remember, it was the president himself who just told small-business owners they can’t take credit for their own success.
D’Souza travels the world in search of clues to Obama’s thinking, using Dreams from My Father as his Baedeker guide. In a couple of spots his evidence seems forced or incomplete, but much of what he finds is disturbing. An old academic friend of the late Barack Obama Sr. tells D’Souza he believes father and son shared the same anti-colonial, anti-Western outlook.
Interestingly, one of the Kenyans whom D’Souza meets now thinks the British colonialists left too soon. George Obama, one of the president’s cousins, tells D’Souza that if the British had stayed, “they would have developed us. Instead, we were fighting over nothing!”
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.