William of Ockham (Occam) developed an elegant method of determining the validity of an idea. His test is that if there are two equivalent explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred. This is referred to as Occam’s Razor. It’s not a foolproof test but more of a rule of thumb (heuristic). But it’s pretty good.
What has this got to do with Barack Obama?
The eminent conservative scholar and writer Dinesh D’Souza has come out with a new book on President Obama provocatively entitled, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. I haven’t read the book but I did read his article summarizing the book in Forbes. In it he examines various policy actions by Obama, and concludes, that Obama has inherited his father’s African rage against colonial powers. In effect, D’Souza says, Obama sees America as the superpower that has taken up the mantle of colonialism and that “America is now the rogue elephant that subjugates and tramples the people of the world.”
D’Souza points to the following actions of President Obama as evidence of his “bizarre” anti-business attitude:
- Obama through the Ex-Im Bank is financing Brazilian oil exploration off of Brazil to the tune of $2 billion.
- Obama in a speech about the BP Gulf spill focused on our oil addiction rather than the cleanup.
- He refuses to allow banks to pay back the TARP money until they have passed a stress test.
- Obama is pushing for more stimulus even though it hasn’t worked.
- He wants to increase taxes on the rich (those making $250,000 or more).
- Obama supports the building of the mosque near ground zero.
- He is blamed for allowing the Lockerbie bomber to be freed and return to Libya.
- Obama wishes to repurpose NASA to improve relations with the Muslim world.
- His father and some of his teachers were socialists and anti-American.
- Obama wishes to control the health care system and investment banks.
- Obama sees his father as a very important figure in his life.
He also says that the President’s father was a womanizer, polygamist, wife-beater, and a drunk. Nice touch.
There is one problem with D’Souza’s theory: it’s bunkum.
If D’Souza is correct then all “Progressives” like Obama also must also have inherited anti-colonial rage from their parents because everything Obama has done and is doing is right out of the Progressive Democratic playbook. This is the simple, elegant answer. If one looks at Obama’s education, work experience, the people he has surrounded himself with, he’s no different than any other “MoveOn” Progressive in America.
There is nothing unusual or surprising about Obama’s policies as a Progressive. Generally speaking, most Progressives in my experience (almost everyone else but me here in Santa Barbara) are anti-capitalists, anti-business, anti-American imperialist foreign policy, and believe that most folks are racists, anti-feminists, anti-Earth, and are fundamentalist Christians.
In fact, I think D’Souza is doing a disservice to his fellow Conservatives by failing to see the obvious simple explanation of Obama’s behavior. Instead of properly criticizing the President head-on for his Progressivism which is widely shared in the Democratic Party, he takes a detour into some anti-colonialism fantasy he has concocted. He tries to portray Obama as something different, something that has never occurred before in American politics. Yet quasi-socialist populism has a long history here and Obama is just the most recent iteration.
Further, D’Souza twists the facts to the point of sensationalism to cast Obama in a demonic light. For example he says that Obama backs the $2 billion oil drilling scheme in Brazil? The US Ex-Im Bank is guaranteeing loans that Chase is making to Brazilian oil company Petrobras which funds will be used to buy US equipment and services to drill offshore. This is nothing new. This is what Ex-Im does. George W. Bush did the same thing. Now there are a lot of reasons why the Ex-Im Bank should be shut down, but you can’t criticize Obama for doing what all of his predecessors did.
On the payback of TARP funds? That was a G. W. Bush policy.
Obamacare, regulation of the financial industry, more Keynesian stimulus, and higher taxes are some kind of anti-American anti-colonial rage? This isn’t even controversial with the Democrats much less the Progressives. This is what Democrats do.
The Ground Zero mosque? Get a life. It’s private property and the government shouldn’t be telling people what to do with their property; this is a well established conservative principle. This is nothing but a populist Republican wedge issue trying to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment for their political goals. This is actually counterproductive to US interests; it just reinforces the Muslim world’s view that we Americans are waging war on Islam, not terrorists.
If I wanted I could read a few books by D’Souza and conclude he was some kind of right wing fanatical fundamentalist Christian who is seeking to politically establish his radical moral vision through populist tracts to deprive me of my personal liberties. But that would be grossly unfair to him.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Americans understood why the policies Progressives and Democrats support are harmful to our economic well being and threaten our constitutional liberties? Wouldn’t it be more effective if we could get those ideas across without resorting to demagoguery? Mr. D’Souza seems to miss that point in his tirade.