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Dreams from his Father: Obama as Petulant Anticolonialist

On the eve of the 2008 election, veteran newsman Tom Brokaw famously declared that we don’t know Barack Obama.  The astonishing admission occurred during a discussion on the Charlie Rose Show, and fellow veteran newsman Charlie Rose agreed wholeheartedly with Brokaw’s admitted ignorance of the man they both wanted to see elected to the most powerful office on earth:

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Shortly after the election, CNN’s Jonathan Mann wrote that Americans “are putting a lot of faith in a man they barely know.” This was true and, perhaps unintentionally, quite a powerful indictment of his employer.

The idea of Tom Brokaw, former anchor of one of the Big Three nightly newscasts and one of America’s most prolific news anchors, a man steeped in American politics for decades on end, declaring that “we don’t understand the universe” of Obama’s thinking was incredible at the time.  We had by then come to know of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his peculiar race-centric Chicago church.  We had by then come to know of Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, the unrepentant 1960s radical terrorist who had openly lamented that he and his ilk hadn’t committed enough violence against America to end the Vietnam war.  We had, by November 2008, already come to know of Obama’s past work with ACORN, the corrupt community organizing group, and we already knew that he planned to continue and elevate ACORN’s work as president.  Those of us who paid close attention knew that in his books Obama himself had confessed to associating with the radicals and Marxists on campus during his college days.  We already knew all of this, yet Brokaw, Rose, and Mann were to some extent right to say that we still didn’t really know the universe of Obama’s thinking.

Nearly 20 months into the Obama presidency, it’s finally becoming clear just how little about Obama we and the media that covered him really understood about him.  Fifty-two percent of America elected a dream, but they didn’t know whose dream they were putting in the White House or what sort of personality would drive that dream.

But we’re getting closer. Victor Davis Hanson, writing here at PJM, and Dinesh D’Souza, writing in Forbes, have separately unlocked two key facets of Obama’s personality and worldview that, together, may tell us exactly who Obama is and exactly what makes him tick.

It’s from D’Souza that we get insight into why the outwardly sunny and personable Barry Obama could spend 20 years under the tutelage of a hater like Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Rev. Wright is a “liberation theology” proponent, and it’s clear from some of his most infamous sermons that he’s also a man of the very hard, anti-American left.  He is a man who, for instance, said that 9-11 was America’s “chickens coming home to roost,” which is nearly identical to cigar store Indian and former Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s “little Eichmanns” view of the terrorist atrocity.  Such thinking actually justifies mass murder against Americans, and it was such thinking that then Sen. Barack Obama heard from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday for two decades.  Obama denies that he ever heard Rev. Wright say such things over the course of 20 years, but in his own book Obama proves his denial to be a lie: On page 293 of Dreams from My Father, Obama recounts his conversion to Christianity in Wright’s church, and among the sermon passages that Obama quotes is this line of anticolonial agitprop:

It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere. … That’s the world! On which hope sits!

Keeping that in mind, turn to D’Souza’s article and we see that Obama confesses that the dreams in Dreams from My Father are very real, and they drive his ideology and actions today.

I know a great deal about anticolonialism, because I am a native of Mumbai, India. I am part of the first Indian generation to be born after my country’s independence from the British. Anticolonialism was the rallying cry of Third World politics for much of the second half of the 20th century. To most Americans, however, anticolonialism is an unfamiliar idea, so let me explain it.

Anticolonialism is the doctrine that rich countries of the West got rich by invading, occupying and looting poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America. As one of Obama’s acknowledged intellectual influences, Frantz Fanon, wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, “The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races.”

“White folks greed runs a world in need,” neatly and convincingly explained — it’s anticolonialism.  And with this as the basis of Obama’s thinking, it’s easy to see why Mr. Sunshine can sit and listen to Rev. Hate, and associate with a leftist terrorist like Ayers, for years.  He agrees with them.  They put energy and action into the abstractions of Obama Sr.’s worldview.  Wright and Ayers and ACORN are the hands acting out the thoughts of the mind.

D’Souza also unearths a 1965 article by Obama Sr. that puts flesh on Obama Jr.’s 2008 declaration to “fundamentally transform America”:

Obama Sr. was an economist, and in 1965 he published an important article in the East Africa Journal called “Problems Facing Our Socialism.” Obama Sr. wasn’t a doctrinaire socialist; rather, he saw state appropriation of wealth as a necessary means to achieve the anticolonial objective of taking resources away from the foreign looters and restoring them to the people of Africa. For Obama Sr. this was an issue of national autonomy. “Is it the African who owns this country? If he does, then why should he not control the economic means of growth in this country?”

As he put it, “We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now.” The senior Obama proposed that the state confiscate private land and raise taxes with no upper limit. In fact, he insisted that “theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.”

This is what Wright preaches.  This is what ACORN and its descendants work for.  This is what Ayers and his fellow travelers seek.  This is Obama’s “fundamental” transformation.  And we don’t need to speculate whether this is what Obama believes.  In Dreams, he explicitly embraces his father’s worldview during a visit to his father’s grave in Kenya.

This anticolonialist worldview explains much, and gives much insight into the mind of the president.  It surely explains his many “present” votes in the Illinois legislature.  They were designed to maintain his mainstream veneer while he built his power base.  It also tells us why he has taken such risks with the nation’s fiscal health via overspending on the failed stimulus and through the health care bill, risks that threaten to take down the country and the Democratic Party.  They’re both ultimately part of the neocolonial power structure, so he cares nothing for them.  Thus, Obama the anticolonialist ideologue is as much a threat to the Democrats from within as he is to the Republicans as an adversary.  This helps explain his odd view of the tea party movement as, on the one hand “all white” (even though it isn’t) and on the other hand, illegitimate.  To him the tea party movement represents the neocolonialists striking back at his efforts to fulfill his father’s dream of breaking the colonialist power structure, so he feels free to smear them at every turn.  Obama’s anticolonialism also tells us why he spent the 9th anniversary of 9-11 essentially apologizing, once again, for America.  He may despise al-Qaeda, but its actions can be viewed as essentially anticolonialist (even though its goals are Islamist colonialism, spread to every corner of the planet), so at some gut level he sees their actions as legitimate.

And as an aside, how sweet it must have been for Obama Jr. to defeat John McCain for the presidency.  McCain was not only himself involved in the war in Vietnam, which the anticolonialist would view as an illegitimate American colonial adventure, but McCain’s family had for generations been integral to the American neocolonial war machine.

So from Dinesh D’Souza we get insight into why Obama can, on the one hand ban American offshore oil drilling even as he subsidizes Brazilian offshore oil drilling: Brazil’s status as a former colony entitles it to do things that a neocolonial power like America should be prohibited from doing.  This makes sense of why Obama has so strongly spoken out in favor of the Ground Zero mosque, while belittling the free speech claims of Rev. Terry Jones.  Jones represents the neocolonial offender, while Imam Rauf represents the Third World anticolonialists.  It also tells us why Obama cares more about the ability of illegal aliens to cross into America than he cares about the plight of the American ranchers on the border whose land is overrun by these same illegal aliens everyday: The illegal aliens are retaking what in Obama’s mind is rightly theirs but was taken away via colonialism, while the ranchers represent the hated colonialist power structure.

From Victor Davis Hanson, we get a picture of where Obama might take his anticolonialist worldview over the course of the next few years.  Obama nurses grievances handed him by his father, but has never had to work hard himself to beat the neocolonialist elite.  They have embraced him time and again, either because they agree with him or out of misplaced guilt, and made it easy for him to succeed.  This has propelled the inexperienced state senator all the way to the White House.  He is, as Hanson writes, just now facing his first real tests of character, and his reaction is petulance.  He is unaccustomed to facing determined opposition:

The exotic name, the mixed racial heritage, and the street cred cool, juxtaposed to the nerdy professorial sermonizing, trumped the need to author or repeal significant laws or create lasting community institutions — or to leave any footprint of achievement at either the University of Chicago, the Illinois legislature, or the U.S. Senate. Running for office or courting appointments or angling for promotions seemed divorced from worry about doing anything when such wishes were granted. Obama’s tragedy is that there is nothing left he can run for, no further adulatory confirmation for just being Obama. Performance for the first time in his life is now all that counts.

And here’s the problem.  Obama champions a hoary old leftist ideology that few Americans are even aware of, and most who are rightly reject.  Anticolonialism is the stuff of Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky, not Main Street and soccer games.  Obama wants to champion statism but his own actions have discredited it.

The past two Democratic presidents have come to power in part in reaction to and as a result of their highly dysfunctional relationships with their fathers.  Bill Clinton’s dysfunction became a gutter-level abuse of power and led to impeachment.  Obama’s so far has led to anger, excess, excuses, and flagrantly unpresidential and divisive rhetoric.

If we’re lucky, the milder side of petulance, boredom, may take hold on Obama and he’ll simply become disinterested in the details of leadership.  There has been some evidence of that already, particularly in his obvious disinterest in tackling Americans’ basic economic concerns even while members of his own party pleaded with him to act.  But if we’re unlucky, the petulant anti-colonialist could be more resolved than ever to try, even after November, to carry forward on his promise — which should now be seen as a threat, actually — to “fundamentally transform” America.  That’s what his father would want him to do.