The Weekly Standard (sort of) defends Obama
Certain arguments are worthy of only ridicule and condemnation, and it's always heartening when political writers break with their own side to make this point. The new issue of the conservative Weekly Standard is thus worthy of note for its review of Dinesh D'Souza's absurd book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage." The headline tells the story: "The Roots of Lunacy: How not to understand Obama."
I knew it would be an honest (and amusing) review when I saw the by-line of Andy Ferguson, a conservative writer who is consistently trustworthy and always entertaining. He tears apart D'Souza’s core thesis after first helpfully summarizing it:
(1) Barack Obama really admired his father, Barack Obama Sr., and wanted to be like him; (2) Obama Sr. grew up in Kenya and became an anticolonial agitator; therefore (3) Obama Jr. wants to be an anticolonial agitator, too, and since he’s simultaneously president of the United States, he gets to be anticolonial in a very big way and drag us along with him.
You should read the whole review to appreciate Ferguson's excellent demolition job, but here’s a taste of what he does:
Ferguson does another interesting thing: He pokes fun at Bill Clinton's opponents who, at the time of his presidency, cast Bubba, of all people, as a dangerous radical, someone who, as the late Jack Kemp put it in 1993, was running the "first frankly left-wing administration in history." As Feguson writes: "In retrospect, the charge looks nuts." Indeed, Ferguson notes that many of Clinton's right-wing critics from the old days "have decided he wasn't so bad after all." (It makes you wonder what they'll be saying about Barack Obama in 2027.)
"Time and again," [D'Souza] writes, Obama "condemned 'British Petroleum' -- an interesting term since the company long ago changed its name to BP. Given our anticolonial theory, it's no surprise that Obama wanted to remind Americans of what BP used to stand for."
Right you are, Holmes! Except... I've read the transcript of the press conference, and Obama didn't make a single reference to British Petroleum -- a name which, in any event, is commonly used by many people of a certain age (including me) who are sworn enemies of anticolonialism. D'Souza makes many errors of this sort, citing facts that aren't facts in support of an otherwise unsupported conclusion. He says that Obama, in his memoir Dreams from My Father, never mentions his father's drunkenness. Obama mentions it often. Indeed, D'Souza misreads the entire memoir: Far from admiring his father and emulating him, Obama makes his disillusionment with his father one of the themes of his own life story.
Now, as it happens, the Weekly Standard and its editor William Kristol were among Clinton's most vociferous critics back when Clinton was president. So I hope that The Standard, having admirably allowed Ferguson, one of the magazine's senior editors, to take apart D'Souza's book, now assigns him to do an internal review of everything the Standard wrote about Clinton when he was president and allows him to publish the results. I'm sure his findings would be as enlightening as this review.
Ferguson, I think, would survive his own scrutiny. Back when Clinton was president, the one thing that Ferguson really ripped Clinton for -- again, entertainingly -- was the then commander in chief's love for the music of folk singer Judy Collins. Collins fans might disagree, but at least it's a line of criticism that still merits careful consideration and debate.
| October 17, 2010; 1:09 PM ET
Categories: Dionne | Tags: E.J. Dionne
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