By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
You could say that the film 2016: Obama’s America is the GOP equivalent of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me. The documentary is based on conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza’s 2010 book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. As the film’s narrator, D’Souza argues that Barack Obama’s philosophy is “anti-colonialist,” a legacy passed on from his Kenyan father, who left Obama’s family when he was two years old.
I watched 2016 with the California delegation at the 2012 Republican National Convention on Monday when the confab was delayed because of Hurricane Isaac. And I was surprised to see former U.S. Comptroller David Walker hitting Obama for deficit spending. Walker, you see, takes pains to come across as a fiscal hawk who criticizes both parties for bad fiscal stewardship. So he was about the last person I expected to see in a movie that some Democrats dismiss as a smear job.
I saw Walker in the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday night; he also plans to spend time at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. “I am in ‘2016,’ and I’m comfortable with what I said in ‘2016,’” Walker told me. “But when I originally agreed to be in that documentary, I was told it was going to be nonpartisan, nonideological and nonpersonal. Let’s just say that I don’t think it meets the criteria.” Walker told me that he asked to be left out of the marketing of the movie. He said of D’Souza’s labeling Obama as “anti-colonialist,” “I don’t know whether he is or not.” Count me in on that, too.
D’Souza starts the film discussing the ways in which he and Obama are similar. They both are mixed-race, are Ivy League graduates who were born in 1961, matriculated in 1983 and married in 1992. But D’Souza is conservative, and Obama is liberal. Why? D’Souza travels the globe as he contends that Obama’s father’s anti-colonial politics were embraced by and passed on by Obama’s mother.
Even if D’Souza could nail that argument—and he didn’t—who cares? The documentary was a big hit with GOP delegates, however, for a reason. This year, the media have over-vetted Mitt Romney’s personal life. Think of the many stories of the dog’s being put in a crate on the Romney car roof in 1983, Romney’s prep-school behavior and his actions as a leader in the Mormon church.
But in 2008, the media glossed over Obama’s ties with former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, “God damn America” pastor Jeremiah Wright and an African-American mentor whom Obama simply calls Frank in his memoirs, Dreams from My Father. It turns out Frank is Frank Marshall Davis, a well-known Communist. D’Souza calls Davis one of Obama’s ideological “Founding Fathers.”
Why wasn’t Davis more of an issue during the 2008 campaign? Slate’s David Weigel recently wrote, “Davis was an avowed Communist, and the media of 2008 didn’t care.”
“There’s been a veil placed over him,” producer Jerry Molen told me. Why did the Oscar-winning producer of “Rain Man” and “Schindler’s List” make a movie that’s critical of Obama? He told me he got angry over the lack of transparency in the administration’s handling of the Affordable Care Act. And he’s angry at what he sees as the media’s failure to adequately vet Obama in 2008 or hold Obama to the same standards reserved for GOP hopefuls.
“I’m a bit disappointed in the mainstream media,” Molen said. “They’ve fallen down on their job, or they have an agenda.”
2016 packages failed promises by the administration—and that’s why California delegates were so enthusiastic about the film. Delegate Jan Goldsmith, the San Diego city attorney, saw the film and was satisfied.
“I’m glad to see that this information is getting out,” he told me.
Other delegates saw the documentary as balancing the scales. Walker agrees. He told me that though he thinks the “anti-colonialist” emphasis was too personal, he appreciates that the film is not “a birther kind of thing.” D’Souza does care about facts. 2016 flatly stipulates that Obama was born in a Hawaii hospital.
Otherwise, Walker found the documentary to be “thought-provoking” and “educational. And quite frankly, we don’t have enough of this.”