Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage: “Oh, that’s the book that everyone’s talking about and everyone wants,” the bookstore clerk told me last night at the Clarendon, Virginia Barnes & Noble. It was almost 11:00 p.m. and the store was just about to close.
“People are saying he’s either a nut or he’s brilliant,” she added.
“D’Souza’s no nut,” I replied. “He’s produced some great work,” [including, for instance, Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, and The Enemy at Home]. “This should be a good and worthwhile read.” I said.
We will see. Based upon what I’ve read and heard thus far — including an excerpt in Forbes magazine — I certainly don’t expect to be disappointed.
I just wish that I could say the same about the reaction of many conservative scribes, some of them my friends, others professional colleagues, who are eager to dismiss D’Souza’s argument as somehow illegitimate and even racist.
David Frum, for instance, rails against what he calls D’Souza’s “brazen outburst of race-baiting.” The American Spectator’s Joseph Lawler criticizes D’Souza’s “apocalyptic reading of inconsequential and half-true stories from [Obama’s] presidency” and youth. And the Secular Right’s Heather MacDonald denounces the book’s “fever dream of paranoia and irrationality.”
In other words, D’Souza’s not just mistaken or wrong; he’s wicked and evil — or at least his book is.
D’Souza’s Legitimate Questions
But what’s so reprehensible about trying to understand what motivates Obama’s sometimes inexplicable actions as president? What’s so blameworthy about offering up a thesis, or theory, to explain Obama in light of his own autobiographical works? Isn’t that a legitimate line of scholarly inquiry?
Certainly, the idea that Obama is trying to capture and fulfill his father’s legacy and his father’s lost dreams is not some loony or fanciful idea. This father-son dynamic, in fact, has deep roots in the human psyche and is a common leitmotif in our history and literature. So it’s not clear why this idea should be summarily dismissed and rejected out of hand as a way to understand and explain Obama.
Part of the problem is that the conservative critics are seeing a racial aspect in D’Souza’s new book which doesn’t really exist. This because of a comment made by Newt Gingrich, in which Gingrich endorses D’Souza’s thesis.
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich told National Review Online.
Maybe Gingrich should have been more precise. Maybe he should have added the word “academic,” while replacing the word “behavior” with “thinking.” Thus:
“What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, academic and anti-colonial thinking can you begin to piece together [his actions]?”
Given the prevalence of anti-colonial thought in the academic and Third Worlds, and given Obama’s own academic and ancestral pedigree, this is a fair and legitimate question. Yet for posing this question, D’Souza is being raked over the coals as somehow bigoted and wrong-headed.
That won’t do. The PC Right is going to have to do more than cry “racism” if they want to refute and discredit D’Souza’s thesis. They’re going to have to substantively engage his arguments; explain why, exactly, these arguments are invalid; and offer a more viable explanatory theory or thesis to explain and understand Obama.
Thus far, they haven’t done that. And, until they do, they’re in no position to argue with D’Souza or to call him nasty names.
John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He writes and blogs for a variety of publications, including FrumForum, the American Spectator and The Daily Caller. Follow him at his personal blog, ResoluteCon.com, and on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.