Obama Derangement Syndrome has now produced a strain as brain-devouring as Bush Derangement Syndrome was. Dinesh D'Souza traces President Obama’s misrule directly to his father – a “philandering, inebriated African socialist.”
Why the sudden reappearance of Barack Obama père, 28 years after his death? Unclear. But D’Souza, author of the 2007 book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11, lists examples of weird governance: President Obama blocks offshore drilling in the United States while subsidizing it in Brazil. His administration waffles about when and whether banks should be allowed to repay the Bush Administration’s TARP bailout. Obama continues to push for more of a stimulus that has manifestly failed to revive business activity or reduce unemployment. He wants to tax the rich unfairly. He supports (maybe) the proposed Cordoba House; bungled the diplomacy around the release of a Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison; and has reportedly assigned NASA the mission-non-critical task of improving relations with the Muslim world.
That list contains a dosage of foolishness, but are these really examples of government so strange as to require a radical explanation? D’Souza believes so, and he has the explanation. Our nation is being held hostage to the thwarted dreams of a “Luo tribesman of the 1950s,” who marinated his hapless son in Fanonian anticolonial politics and “is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.” The tell? It’s right in the title of his book:
What then is Obama's dream? We don't have to speculate because the President tells us himself in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father. According to Obama, his dream is his father's dream. Notice that his title is not Dreams of My Father but rather Dreams from My Father. Obama isn't writing about his father's dreams; he is writing about the dreams he received from his father
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. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America's power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe's resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
Sometimes things seem incredible because they are. Dreams From My Father is in fact a narrative of Obama's non-relationship with his father. The whole point of the book is that the author's paternal heritage is delivered in fragments during brief and usually troubled encounters. While Obama goes on about his father's misfortunes -- many of them clearly self-inflicted -- in Kenya, there is no evidence for the claim that the elder Obama bequeathed his son a coherent or even a partial political philosophy.
The book does track a foggy course through Obama's political growth, toward one inescapable goal: Obama's formation came through and in reaction to his mother, a New Deal leftist whose social views were slightly more advanced than those of her cohort. There's no need to go to Kenya for the kind of indoctrination into Frantz Fanon and socialism D'Souza describes: It was widely available at Occidental and Columbia. In fact, the book's literary interest -- and possibly its biggest political misdirection -- rests in Obama's putative skepticism about the leftish consensus of the sixties.
To listen to D'Souza you'd think Obama’s book was a large-easy-to-read-type call to arms for Mugabean anti-colonialism. In fact, when something close to the grievance-centered politics D'Souza rightly denounces comes up in Dreams, it comes packed in caveats and windy second thoughts. Witness one chapter dealing with the future president's Chicago "community organizer" days that begins:
Winter came and the city turned monochrome – black trees against gray sky above white earth. Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairies storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds.
ZZ! ZZZZ! ZZZZZZ-- Huh! (Blink) Shnuff! (Slurp!) Whoa! (Snort!) Sorry, nodded off for a second. So Obama's talking about the militant nationalism of a co-worker he appears to have made up. He writes:
Nationalism provided...an unambiguous morality tale that was easily communicated and easily grasped. A steady attack on the white race, the constant recitation of black people’s brutal experience in this country, served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal and communal responsibility from tipping into an ocean of despair. Yes, the nationalist would say, whites are responsible for your sorry state, not any inherent flaws in you. In fact, whites are so heartless and devious that we can no longer expect anything from them. The self-loathing you feel, what keeps you drinking or thieving, is planted by them. Rid them from your mind and find your true power liberated. Rise up, ye mighty race!
It was a painful thought to consider, as painful now as it had been years ago. It contradicted the morality my mother had taught me, a morality of subtle distinctions – between individuals of goodwill and those who wished me ill, between active malice and ignorance or indifference. I had a personal stake in that moral framework; I’d discovered that I couldn’t escape it if I tried.
I would suggest that D’Souza read Jesse Walker’s more closely argued case that Obama is in fact not radical enough. D’Souza, a self-made traditionalist, would probably not agree with the argument, but at least there’s some support for it. In the event, D’Souza’s argument from fatherhood takes a long trip in a circle, in the process revealing more about the president of The King’s College than it does about the president of the United States: At one point, Obama’s sentence "I sat at my father's grave and spoke to him through Africa's red soil" is described, without explanation, as “eerie." (A simple “uninspired” would have sufficed.)
D’Souza’s thesis is catching on. Sleepless Dave Weigel hears it back from Newt Gingrich, rising master of the politics of personal self-destruction. Bonus: Gingrich closes the audio with a joyful patriotic flourish: "We're the most wonderful, open and chaotic society in human history." Hope he meant that as a compliment.