13 September 2010

The conservative movement bottoms out

Dinesh D'Souza calls the president an "anticolonial Kenyan" here. This piece is spreading like wildfire in the conservative blogosphere.

D'Souza's language in italics:

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back.

That's some pretty absurd revisionist history. Non-defense discretionary spending rose nearly 10 percent per year under George W. Bush, three times the rate of that under Bill Clinton. Just because Bush styled himself a "Republican" and was a culturally admirable family man doesn't mean he was some sort of small-government crusader. Under Bush, the government: (i) created the Department of Homeland Security and a massive national security and domestic surveillance apparatus, (ii) outlandishly expanded the once-limited state secrets privilege and imprisoned and tortured American citizens while denying them the most basic of due process rights; (iii) created a huge unfunded prescription drug mandate (Medicare Part D); (iv) passed No Child Left Behind, which would have made most liberals proud; and (v) doubled the national debt in just eight years. And D'Souza implies the era of big government started in January 2009? Please.

More strange behavior: Obama's June 15, 2010 speech in response to the Gulf oil spill focused not on cleanup strategies but rather on the fact that Americans "consume more than 20% of the world's oil but have less than 2% of the world's resources." Obama railed on about "America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels." What does any of this have to do with the oil spill?

Other than the fact that American presidents have been talking about this since Nixon? Could it have anything to do with the fact that our dependence on foreign oil puts us at the mercy of the rest of the world? Bush threw out lines like this and got applause. Obama throws out lines like this and gets called un-American.

The President continues to push for stimulus even though hundreds of billions of dollars in such funds seem to have done little.

If the whole point of D'Souza's article is to paint Obama as un-American or extremist, D'Souza utterly fails here. Keynesian policies are supported by a majority of Democrats.

But we have been blinded to his real agenda because, across the political spectrum, we all seek to fit him into some version of American history. In the process, we ignore Obama's own history. Here is a man who spent his formative years--the first 17 years of his life--off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.

Yes. This precisely explains the surge in Afghanistan and his decision to send unmanned drones into Pakistan on kill missions -- something even Bush didn't do.

But to his son, the elder Obama represented a great and noble cause, the cause of anticolonialism.

First, how in the world does one "represent" a cause? D'Souza doesn't explain this at all, simply opting for a conclusory statement with no factual support. Second, D'Souza never defines "anticolonialism." Is it the idea that African nationals find it offensive to be ruled by a government located in another hemisphere? Third, if so, D'Souza fails to explain what is so objectionable about this "anticolonialism." Finally, what we know about Obama is that he adored his mother and he met his father exactly twice. This type of identity, "he's not one of us" politics is just flat-out wrong. What happened to just arguing about policy?

It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder.

This is just absurd. This paragraph comes immediately after D'Souza explains how Obama Sr. viewed America and viewed the world. D'Souza simply makes a flat, conclusory statement with no factual support, no direct examples of how this alleged worldview has manifested itself in the president's policies and simply pronounces the president guilty by association. He imputes Obama Sr.'s motives and ideologies directly to the president, with no causal connection explained between what Obama learned from his father -- who he met twice -- and his policy prescriptions. And again, if Obama really views "America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation," would he have ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?

Rejecting the socialist formula, Obama has shown no intention to nationalize the investment banks or the health sector. Rather, he seeks to decolonize these institutions, and this means bringing them under the government's leash.

D'Souza is even wrong here. As Ross Douthat has noted, the fact that the Obama administration hasn't been able to nationalize the health care sector isn't because Obama isn't that liberal, but because Obama is a calculating politician who knew that a single-payor system (or even a public option) wasn't politically feasible. It's not because Obama is a political moderate. D'Souza gets this completely backward, which suggests to me that he hasn't been paying attention for the last 18 months.

If Obama shares his father's anticolonial crusade, that would explain why he wants people who are already paying close to 50% of their income in overall taxes to pay even more.

The top tax bracket is 36%. That's not half, and it's not even close. The stated policy of the Obama administration is to let the 2001 tax cuts expire, thus raising the top tax bracket back to 39.5%, which is where it was under the Clinton administration. D'Souza needs to get his facts straight. If wanting to raise taxes makes you an anticolonialist, then how does D'Souza explain the policies of Bill Clinton? Or the tax increases under Ronald Reagan?

Obama supports the Ground Zero mosque because to him 9/11 is the event that unleashed the American bogey and pushed us into Iraq and Afghanistan. He views some of the Muslims who are fighting against America abroad as resisters of U.S. imperialism.

Again, this is just intellectually lazy and takes no skill. D'Souza simply preys on the fears and cultural unfamiliarities many conservatives have vis-a-vis the president. D'Souza offers no factual support for any of these conclusions, simply implying that, well, Obama's father would have believed this. Like we've said before, how can you argue with someone who spouts these things? D'Souza clearly isn't concerned with facts or sound logic, making a proper response almost impossible.

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