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The conservative view: Why independents, Dems should not be afraid of '2016: Obama's America'

The most-important thing one needs to know about 2016: Obama's America is that it is not a right-wing version of a Michael Moore movie.

It is true that one can draw some parallels between, say, Fahrenheit 9/11 and 2016: Obama's America. Both films are documentaries about sitting presidents, released during their respective re-election campaigns, written and narrated by men with opposing political views. Both are considered "independent" films, and 2016: Obama's America actually copied Moore's marketing approach of opening in a small number of markets, and slowly expanding as interest increases.

There, however, the similarities end. In Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore took the gloves off before the opening credits finished. He used a combination of half-truths (most effective), falsehoods and facts to paint former President George W. Bush as an evil idiot.

He was particularly good at making assertions that were carefully crafted to lead the audience to specific inferences, though those assertions would not stand had all the facts been known.

Dinesh D'Souza, on the other hand, opens his movie with an autobiography. Though this may sound odd, it is significant, because it explains D'Souza's particular interest in President Barack Obama. Both men were born in 1961. They were married in the same year. Both attended Ivy League schools—Dartmouth in the case of D'Souza, and Columbia and Harvard in the case of Obama. And both have family in non-Western developing countries—India in the case of D'Souza, and Kenya in the case of Obama. Both men are brown in complexion. In fact, at one point, when D'Souza is recalling a debate he had with Jesse Jackson, he mentioned that were one to look at a hand from each man, they would be indistinguishable.

This striking set of similarities between the two men establishes a couple of important things about D'Souza. First, his interest in Obama has a personal aspect to it; second, his perspective is that of a fellow traveler rather than a distant observer.

The movie then proceeds with a biography of Obama, from his birth in Hawaii to his childhood in Indonesia, his academic life and meteoric political career. The story is told by D'Souza through his narration, interviews and Obama's readings from Dreams From My Father.

While it might be an overstatement to describe the film as visually stunning, there are some compelling video sequences of conditions in the poorer parts of Indonesia and Kenya. Extreme close-ups of a number of the interviewees add some intensity to the conversations. No doubt, the high quality of the film's presentation can be attributed to the producer, Gerald R. Molen, better known for Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Rain Man and Minority Report, among others.

In the end, D'Souza constructs his understanding of Obama's worldview from the beliefs of those who most influenced the president. D'Souza's theory explains not only Obama's policies—from restricting offshore drilling in the United States while subsidizing it in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, to siding with the Argentine government instead of the British regarding the Falkland Islands, and abandoning long-standing allies like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt—but also some of his quirky behaviors.

Unlike Moore's treatment of Bush, D'Souza at no time attempts to insult or demean Obama. While the president's supporters may disagree with D'Souza's theory, or deny his observations, they will not be subjected to mean-spirited attacks on our president.

This presidential election has had even less discussion of issues, or of the candidates and their policies, than the last one. This film has the potential to open serious discussions of the candidates, starting, in this case, with the most-unknown candidate ever elected to the presidency. Conservative political junkies may learn a few new facts from the film, but the framework D'Souza provides will tie them together and make sense of them. Everyone else will probably receive a much-greater benefit from the film by virtue of its new information and new perspective.

For those reasons, everyone who votes should see it, particularly those who have been exposed to little in the way of legitimate criticism of the president. And believe it or not, there are legitimate criticisms of the president. There really is nothing to fear.

More by Jonathan Hoffman

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