Monday, September 13, 2010


Dinesh D'Souza wrote a cover story for Forbes entitled "How Obama Thinks," and it's getting a lot of attention -- nearly all of it for advancing the notion (further spread by Newt Gingrich) that Obama has (in Gingrich's words) a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview. Adam Serwer writes:

This is birtherism with big words. This is the witchdoctor sign without Photoshop, WorldNetDaily without the exclamation points.

Meanwhile, I keep struggling to try to get far enough into the damn D'Souza article to get to the anti-colonial Kenyan stuff. I keep getting tripped up by the fact that the opening paragraphs read like every slapdash multi-count indictment of Obama I've ever skipped at Z-list sites like American Thinker and (yes) WorldNetDaily. This is what else is appalling about Forbes's decision to publish the piece -- beyond the "birtherism with big words," it's the sort of dog's breakfast that rank amateurs throw together after spending too much time in the fever-swamps of the Fox/talk-radio/Free Republic-verse. Government takeovers of industries! Confiscatory taxation! The Ground Zero mosque! It doesn't fit together at all, except if the unifying premise is "Obama is pure evil!!!!1!1!" But that's apparently good enough for Forbes these days.

And much of it is flat-out wrong. Take this from the opening paragraphs of the piece:

The President's actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: "Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling." Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling--but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama's backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro--not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.

Actually, as noted (under the heading "Bogus Brazilian Oil Claims"):

This claim stems from a "preliminary committment" made back on April 14 by the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank intends to loan up to $2 billion to finance exports to the Brazilian oil company Petroleo Brasileiro S.A., known as Petrobras, over the next several years....

No presidential order was required. Furthermore, none of President Obama’s appointees had joined the Ex-Im board at the time of the vote, which was unanimous, and bipartisan. The Ex-Im Bank states: "In fact, at the time the Bank’s Board consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by George W. Bush."

A bit further down D'Souza makes this assertion:

A good way to discern what motivates Obama is to ask a simple question: What is his dream? Is it the American dream? Is it Martin Luther King's dream? Or something else?

It is certainly not the American dream as conceived by the founders. They believed the nation was a "new order for the ages." A half-century later Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of America as creating "a distinct species of mankind." This is known as American exceptionalism. But when asked at a 2009 press conference whether he believed in this ideal, Obama said no. America, he suggested, is no more unique or exceptional than Britain or Greece or any other country.

Let me repeat that: "when asked at a 2009 press conference whether he believed in this ideal, Obama said no." In fact, when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, Obama said yes. His exact words? "I believe in American exceptionalism." There's nuance in the full answer, but there's also pride in what America has done:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

I know that any answer short of "We're perfect, and every other country sucks" is regarded as treasonous by the right, but there you are.

D'Souza chastises Obama for talking about "America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels" without noting that George W. Bush said in his 2006 State of the Union address that "America is addicted to oil." D'Souza asserts that Obama "supports a $100 million mosque scheduled to be built near the site where terrorists in the name of Islam brought down the World Trade Center" without noting that Obama has pointedly refused to express approval for building the community center on its planned site. D'Souza finds sinister socialist thinking in an academic paper written by Obama's father in the mid-1960s without noting that the paper was in fact a critique of specific socialist proposals from Kenya's economic ministry.

The D'Souza piece, in short is a fact-challenged, unfocused, incoherent mess. Fifth-rate right-wing sites publish this sort of nonsense all the time. The fact that Forbes is publishing something like this now is a clear sign that idiocracy continues to spread on the right.


UPDATE: D'oh -- Dave Weigel debunked the Brazil bit before I did.

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