In 2004, Michael Moore released his anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," partly in hopes of influencing that year's Bush-Kerry election.
Dinesh D'Souza has a similar aim with "2016: Obama's America."
D'Souza, a conservative writer who served as policy adviser to President Reagan, contends that President Obama continues to be influenced by various figures from his youth who advocated anti-colonialism - that he regards America as a colonialist nation and wants to reduce our military and financial clout around the world.
This undated image provided by Rocky Mountain Pictures, shows an undated film clip from “2016: Obama’s America.” Hollywood may have run out of summer hits, but an anti-Obama documentary is helping fill the gap. “2016: Obama’s America” was expanded from limited to nationwide release and took in $6.2 million to finish at No. 8 Sunday.
As a matter of full disclosure, I'm no Obama fan, and I often felt D'Souza was right; his many interviews are certainly thought-provoking. But on the whole, I don't think his film fully proves its point.
A few problems:
His exchange with Obama's half-brother George is one of those irritating affairs in which the interviewer keeps pushing his respondent to say things he doesn't want to. It's clear that George has no resentment over the difference between his lifestyle and that of his more famous sibling.
And the interview with NYU psychologist Paul Vitz struck me as below the belt, attempting to explain Obama's policies as a psychological manifestation of his troubled relationship with his father.
Most significantly, while D'Souza does show the influence of Obama's father, he never demonstrates that the president's alleged "anti-colonialism" actually came from this source.
D'Souza is on firmer ground when he cites writings from Obama Sr. justifying 100 percent taxation; and when he shows the influence of the president's past associates - including the incendiary Jeremiah Wright (of the now-famous "God damn America" speech) and Bill Ayers, whose militant group tried to bomb the Pentagon and the Capitol in the '60s and '70s.
Other interesting points:
Race expert Shelby Steele avers that Obama's election was "racially motivated" - that many whites voted for him simply to prove they weren't racist. Says Steele, "No white man could be two years out of the Illinois state legislature and walk into the White House."
D'Souza also offers evidence that Obama has drastically reduced our nuclear advantage while paying no attention to weapons development in rogue nations.
And he cites Federal Reserve figures showing Americans' real wealth has dropped 40 percent since 2007.
Along these lines, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker insists that "the greatest threat to the future is our own financial irresponsibility."
D'Souza links Obama's reckless spending to his supposed desire to cut back our global power; he calls this "debt as a weapon of mass destruction."
Yet if you look through the info I've cited above, it has a sort of scattershot feel - as though D'Souza wanted to cram in as much harmful material as possible - rather than spending time marshalling hard facts (which are tough to find in this film) and focusing on his main thesis.
The film could have used more work, but may have been rushed out in order to influence the election.
It's interesting and sometimes scary, but it never persuaded me of a deliberate plot to damage America - any more than Moore proved that George W. Bush invited 9/11.