Tuesday, September 14, 2010

 

The End Of The End Of Racism

I called my reaction to Newt's "Kenyan, anti-colonialism" comment depressing and it is.  Not because it suggests that after twelve years out of office, the former Speaker hasn't learned when the wise tactic is to hold off on saying the first thing that pops into one's head. Remember the gift he gave the Clinton White House on the roots of the government shutdown?  


No, it's because the Newt Gingrich I once worked for -- even when tempted to go for the jugular when engaging political rhetoric -- was intellectually more rigorous when assessing a political argument. 


It's especially ironic that Newt would characterize as Obama's rise to power as "a wonderful con" pulled on the American people.  That very phrase could be used to describe the "source" -- Dinesh D'Souza -- that launches him on this spurious theory.  Newt, you're an historian.  How about checking the history of a person before you opine on his "profound insight"?  For that matter, one can ask why Forbes didn't bother considering D'Souza's track record before publishing this drivel as a cover story.  


Daniel Larison does yeoman work taking apart D'Souza's piece (indeed, he caught this before Newt brought it to everyone's attention). 


D'Souza is, take your pick, a con man or "hack" of the first order (though the terms aren't mutually exclusive).  And the article proves that (starting early on with a pseudo urban legend about oil drilling in Brazil -- the facts of which could have been checked on, uh, Snopes).  The question is how he's managed to pull the same con on the conservative intelligentsia over and over again. The record is quite clear: 


1) D'Souza writes a fairly mainstream conservative book about PC on college campuses that isn't exactly original in terms of scholarship, but wins many plaudits among conservatives and even crosses over to the mainstream (1992's Illiberal Education). 


2) Then he gets a big contract to produce a major tour de force that will cement his reputation. Alas, when said major book comes out in 1995, The End of Racism, it is so over the top and sloppily written (and, in fact, so wrong in places that the first edition has to be trashed and a chapter rewritten) that it appalls yes, those on the left, but fair-minded liberals and smart thinkers on the right.


3) With reputation somewhat bruised, D'Souza then retreats and gets a contract for an "easy" book -- Voila! A quickie book extolling the virtues of conservatives' greatest elected leader. That Reagan was a great president is undeniable, but the hagiographic approach to D'Souza's work can be gleaned from the title alone, Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. This is followed by a couple of rah-rah books about prosperity and patriotism.  But, hey, guess they don't quite pay the bills, so it's time -- yep, to write another "intellectual" tour de force


4) To say that there was universal reaction, nay, revulsion to 2007's The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 would be an understatement.  His thesis is that America's cultural output -- Britney Spears, Hollywood, etc. -- inspired the 9/11 attackers. This essentially anti-American screed was "aiding the enemy," one conservative declared; D'Souza was willfully ignoring that Islamists are anti-democratic, said another. Finally, after a tendentious four-part D'Souza epistle at NRO, Victor Davis Hanson eviscerated every part of D'Souza's argument and re-argument.


(In between, D'Souza appropriated wholesale a rather even-handed profile from a San Diego paper, edits it to remove any problematic information and posts it to his own website -- without getting permission from the original author!  Only after legal letters are sent does D'Souza take the article down.)  


Given this history, one asks the question: Why would Newt fall for the con?  Apparently, the National Review folks aren't fooled (kudos, actually, to Robert Costa's breaking the story).  As Ramesh Ponnuru says rather drolly, "I didn’t find Dinesh D’Souza’s cover story in Forbes as “stunning” or “profound” in its insight into the president as Newt Gingrich did."  Of course not.  He's seen this movie before. 


Showing a stunning lack of self-awareness or sense of irony, D'Souza leaps to the anti-colonial argument by first noting that "Here is a man who spent his formative years--the first 17 years of his life--off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa."


But, as Dave Weigel cogently points out, "Hawaii, while not part of the mainland (neither's Alaska, folks), is obviously part of the United States, and Obama spent 13 years there before heading to college. He spent four years in Indonesia and two weeks in Pakistan." 


Meanwhile, D'Souza was born and raised in India for his first 17 years. So, let's do a thought experiment: Presume there exists an individual from the nation of India -- a huge democracy, but one nonetheless that has been wracked over its history with issues surrounding race, class and religion.  Indeed, arguably these issues still exist in large measure to this day. Would a young man raised late into his teen years in such an environment be able to completely overcome the influence of his culture?  


Or would he perhaps succumb to the temptation to see the racial drama of his adopted nation through the eyes of his native land? Could such a sensibility lead him to believe that American blacks -- like the untouchables of India -- have an immutable "pathology" that makes it impossible for them to rise above their condition and immoral for the state to even try? Perhaps taught by his parents of the pressures that led to the partition of India -- and an exercised Muslim minority -- might he posit that cultural acquiescence by the secular state to the angry Muslims is the best option?


Finally, could his familiarity with the caste system and lower status of the so-called "half-castes" cause him to see the half-caste president in a completely, well, foreign light? D'Souza doesn't analyze -- or choose to perceive -- Barack Obama as conventional liberal. Rather, he uses reductionist theory to concoct a Marxist (philosophically) theory about Obama based solely on the president's familial roots (a father Obama had all of two years and one month knowing). In doing this, he endeavors to rip out any semblance of Americanness from the president and leave him only influenced by his African father. This from the man who declared the end of racism?  And Newt's buying this?  


Would it be fair to assess all of Dinesh D'Souza's life from his 17 years in India -- and ignore all the other influences on his life since he came to the United States? Of course not. But his analyses over the years of American racism, cultural influence and now, evidently, The Roots of Obama's Rage are far more "odd" and "bizarre" than the ideology of a rather liberal president -- who followed a "conservative" chief executive in bringing back "the era of big government." 


And what of Newt, the once smart historian who has seemingly been taken in by a con man (no, not the guy in the White House)?  Perhaps he should pay attention to words Virginia Postrel wrote fourteen years ago:  

You cannot get to a colorblind society by constantly reinforcing racial categories. You can't get justice by playing the race card. Conservatives make those arguments when they oppose affirmative action...They don't, however, appear to believe them. And that is America's loss.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

 

Welcome back, NFL!!!

The world has been restored. Real, American football is back!  


My Week #1 picks: NYG, MIA, TEN, DET, NE, ATL, CLE, DEN, HOU, STL, GB, SF, WAS, NYJ, SD -- and, yes, take it to the bank -- NO over MINN)!! 


Go, Big Blue!  Go, Gang Green!! 

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Newt Heads Off The Rails

I have no idea WTF my former boss is trying to say here:
Gingrich: Obama’s ‘Kenyan, anti-colonial’ worldview September 11, 2010 10:52 P.M.
By Robert Costa
Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.
Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”
“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 asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
“This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.
“I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. “In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.”
“[Obama] is in the great tradition of Edison, Ford, the Wright BrothersBill Gates — he saw his opportunity and he took it,” Gingrich says. Will Gingrich take it back in 2012? “The American people may take it back, in which case I may or may not be the recipient of that, but I have zero doubt that the American people will take it back. Unlike Ford, the Wright Brothers, et cetera, this guy’s invention did not work.”
“I think Obama gets up every morning with a worldview that is fundamentally wrong about reality,” Gingrich says. “If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.”


"Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior"?  Really?? 


Actually, change my opening statement that. I think I know exactly what he's trying to do -- and it depresses me to no end. I'll discuss more on this later. In the interim, I hope to try and forget how insane the world has gone by having a few pints with my Sunday football.


(By the way, clicking on the above link may not bring up the actual story. I tried it this morning and ended up only at NRO's Corner. May just be temporary glitch -- since we all know that nothing ever truly disappears from the 'Net).

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