The year 2012 bears the burden of apocalyptic Mayan calendar predictions and a curious onscreen fascination with speculative science fiction dramas — from Sound of My Voice to Looper — but, apparently seeking to top things off, writer Dinesh D’Souza teams up with John Sullivan to speculate about the true intentions of President Barack Obama in 2016: Obama’s America. The film had a strong limited run in theaters and arrived on DVD Oct. 16 — the same date as the second debate between the president and Mitt Romney.
It should be noted that D’Souza is a conservative voice — he was formerly on President Ronald Reagan’s staff and is a member of the American Enterprise Institute — with, as he identifies it, an outsider’s perspective that is in some ways similar to the president’s. He doesn’t explicitly make the point, but it is obvious that he sees himself as the flip side of a shared coin. They are both educated men of color with connections to the Third World, fiercely driven to succeed and intellectual/philosophical seekers of identity in an international-dominated dynamic. But one man loves the hope and promise of the American Dream, while the other would love to light the fuse that would set the whole enterprise aflame once and for all. Guess which one wants to end the world (bonus points for those smart enough to figure out when the endgame occurs)?
D’Souza uses Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father as the starting point of an epic journey into the political heart of darkness of a man he believes we simply don’t know. Since Obama’s father was an avid anti-colonialist in Kenya and many of his mentors were men driven to distraction by their own Socialist/Communist/anti-American aims, of course, Obama is little more than a Manchurian candidate brainwashed by his minders.
While weakly countering the notion that he’s not just pandering to the Tea Party/birther conspiracy theories about Obama that border on blatant racism, D’Souza concocts a nightmarish scheme right out of a Hollywood psycho-thriller without bothering to match any of his ideas with actual policy.
To claim, for instance, that through the passage of a more universal health care plan, Obama has driven us down the road towards socialism is to ignore the fact that Obama’s plan (which I loosely consider “his” since it was a patchwork Frankenstein cobbled together from hundreds of elements in Congress and other plans that predate even Hilary’s dream for health care during Bill’s first term) doesn’t come close to the desires of the more progressive members of the Democratic Party
Obama’s America takes audiences on an exotic world tour with D’Souza as our breathless guide, in search of the undiscovered truth about the revolution Obama fronts, disguised in campaign sloganeering. The “change” in store for the American empire, the film states, is the outright destruction of the capitalist system, replacing it with a radical redistribution of wealth and power. Yet, these claims are leveled against a president who, during his first run, took in huge campaign contributions from corporate and other elite donors, has allowed the Bush tax cuts to remain in effect and overseen the dramatic rebound of the stock market after the unprecedented recession that gripped the economy when he entered office.
The facts call for a different interpretation, but the very notion of “interpretation” lies at the heart of any review of the film. As D’Souza races around the globe interviewing conservative pundits and even the president’s brother, George Obama (who refuses to be baited into speaking ill of the President), there’s a degree of fake urgency in the presentation over the real question that hangs in the air — what will the situation look like in 2016, during the next election cycle?
We will either prepare for a possible second Romney/Ryan term or the prospect of a completely new shift, with new players — both Democratic and Republican — on the stage, offering their plans to move America forward. But, if history stands as witness to these events, it is unlikely that Obama will have confirmed D’Souza’s Dead Zone prophecy and unleashed a socialist hell on Earth scenario.
Maybe D’Souza would have been wise to leave speculation fantasy to a Hollywood expert like Brit Marling. (PG) Grade: D
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