Friday, January 4, 2013

The Movie 2016: Whitewashing Big Government for Republicans

I was recently able to watch a free copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s movie 2016:Obama’s America. I heard plenty about it since it was released but made no plans to see it, because it appeared to be just the latest in a long line of neoconservative crusades.

A detailed review by Gary North, a principled proponent of liberty and sound economics, confirmed my suspicions. Now that I’ve watched the film, I can verify Mr. North is exactly right; the movie is a whitewash of the Bush presidency and the whole federal government. 2016 is, says North,

“…dead wrong. That is because it misses the fundamental political fact of the last dozen years: the Obama Administration is the operational successor of the Bush Administration. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, on Wall Street, Barack Obama is George W. Bush in blackface. Obama is the star of a twenty-first century minstrel show.

This fact has been deliberately ignored for almost four years by both the neoconservative Right and the grin-and-bear-it Left. Neither side will admit what I regard as the fundamental fact of this documentary. It is a long whitewash of the policies of George W. Bush.”

I would add, Bush was the operational successor of Clinton, Clinton of Bush Sr., and on and on. All modern Presidents have supported the federal government serving the role it does today: including everything from micromanaging the economy to operating a military that is expensive as the rest of the world’s combined.

Obama is no radical deviation from the status quo; he perpetuates it. 2016 would have you think Obama is some unique threat to America. This may stir up the voters for a party that has little to credibly offer as an alternative to the Democrat agenda of “big government”, but it's not productive for the cause of liberty.

Unfortunately there are more problems with this film. It addresses the debt, but only part of it. Worse, it ignores the fact that Congress, and not the executive, has sole Constitutional authority over the federal budget. The President cannot do anything on this subject without Congress, yet the film omits this fact and pursues Obama alone. Ditto for the Federal Reserve; it is also ignored even though its manipulation of the money supply creates the booms and busts. When talking responsibility for the bad economy, the Fed and Congress should be in the foreground, and the President in the background.

On foreign policy, Obama’s problem, apparently, is that he doesn’t intervene enough. Back to North’s review:

The documentary is a neoconservative propaganda film. It strongly favors the United States as the policeman of the world. It criticizes Obama for supposedly pulling out of this role. On what basis? The closing of American military bases and spying bases, now numbering closed to a thousand? No. The reduction of the Pentagon's budget? No evidence yet, but the promise that he will, just you wait. Then what? Because he has not gone to war in Iran and Syria.

I am a card-carrying member in good standing of the Old Right (pre-1940), meaning the non-interventionist American political tradition. I see no reason to get upset with the fact that Obama has not yet invaded Iran.

Repeatedly, D'Souza blames Obama for not stopping the nuclear weapons program that he says Iran is involved in. The problem is, as far as anyone has proven, Iran is not involved in developing a nuclear weapon. Given all of the talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction back in early 2003, before the U.S. invaded, I think it is reasonable that somebody who promotes military intervention against Iran by the United States should prove that Iran does have a nuclear weapons program. It may, but what can we do about it? Are we ready to bomb, bomb Iran, the way John McCain sang back in 2007?

2016 spends much time trying to make sense out of Obama’s ideology and his influences. This is a legitimate subject but also a relatively unimportant one, as James Antle explains well:

“Is there anything less interesting than the theorizing about why Obama governs as he does? Obama is a liberal, and a fairly banal one at that … Yet there remains a cottage industry of explanations for why a liberal president has compiled a record of generally liberal policy positions, something akin to a discovery process as to why a quarterback is so taken with throwing touchdown passes.”

Instead of explaining how the anti-liberty agenda of Obama and his Washington D.C. cohorts is wrong and destructive, movies like this deflect attention from the real problem, the system and the bad ideas that support it. It’s not surprising that politicians resort to this so often, there is not much else they can criticize without it coming right back at them. It's not a problem to take a look at Obama or any politician, to be clear, it's how it's done.

What’s good about 2016? Sadly not much, beyond the production quality, though I think the film was too long. At times I was getting bored. The real problem with this movie is the message. As Gary North sums up in his review:

[O]n the issues that really matter, it is either wrong-headed or silent. On foreign policy, it is a defense of the neoconservatives' version of Middle Eastern foreign policy. He devotes a lot of time interviewing Daniel Pipes. Pipes is a major proponent of the neoconservatives' interventionist Middle Eastern policy. On the real federal deficit -- unfunded liabilities -- it is silent. On the on-budget deficit, it ignores Bush and Congress. The deficit is a bipartisan disaster. To suggest otherwise is not just misleading, it is deceptive. It raises hope where there is none. "If only we will not re-elect Obama!" On the deficits -- on-budget and off-budget -- it makes not a whit of difference. There will be a Great Default.

He fails to pursue the obvious -- the influence [of] Jeremiah Wright -- while he promotes his own peculiar thesis of Obama as an anti-colonialist son of his absent father. I kept thinking, "Anti-colonialist? If only it were true. If only his foreign policy were not an extension of Bush's."

I recommend North’s entire review be read. It’s time for conservatives to stop supporting flawed efforts like this film. If your goal is liberty, you are up against the system, against bad ideas, not any particular individual. Unfortunately, 2016 perpetuates its own bad ideas while painting Obama as THE root of our problems, rather than the whole system. This effectively whitewashes and protects the big government agenda, in a manner intended to attract an audience of republicans, conservatives, and tea party types. Sadly, it works.

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