David Sessions briefly chronicles Dinesh D’Souza’s rise and recent fall within conservative circles this morning at the Daily Beast. At this point, it is hard to tell whether or not the title of the article is wishful thinking. After watching the conservative response to David Barton’s disgrace over The Jefferson Lies, I am not so sure that D’Souza is done among the conservatives and the religious right.
Even so, Sessions points us to this 2010 Weekly Standard article about D’Souza’s book on Obama’s “rage”:
On the evidence of his new book, we can’t be sure if Dinesh D’Souza is a hysteric or a cynic. Newt Gingrich, for his part, thinks D’Souza is a visionary, and he’s been praising the visionary and his book with the patented Gingrichian intensity. D’Souza is the possessor of a “stunning insight,” Gingrich said recently, in an interview with National Review Online’s Robert Costa. This insight is “the most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama,” Gingrich continued, while poor Costa looked for a table to duck under. “Only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior can you piece together [Obama’s actions]. That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
As a professional partisan with a Ph.D., Newt Gingrich will take anything seriously if it suits his immediate purpose and has the necessary intellectual pretensions (whatever happened to the Tofflers anyway?). D’Souza’s thesis, with its exoticism (Kenya) and its scholarly tags (anticolonial behavior), looks tailor-made for the former speaker. The insight with which D’Souza has stunned him is purely abstract and syllogistic: (1) Barack Obama really admired his father, Barack Obama Sr., and wanted to be like him; (2) Obama Sr. grew up in Kenya and became an anticolonial agitator; therefore (3) Obama Jr. wants to be an anticolonial agitator, too, and since he’s simultaneously president of the United States, he gets to be anticolonial in a very big way and drag us along with him.
Note the date – 2010 – D’Souza took that conservative licking and kept on ticking, now out with a wildly successful documentary based on the book panned by the Weekly Standard. Disgraced conservative commentators are like cats – fluid with nine lives. Even with the latest scandal (being engaged while still married) and his utterly implausible excuse (“I didn’t know it was wrong”), he will probably land on his feet and live to conspire another day.
Sessions ends his piece with a similar realization:
But D’Souza’s excommunication isn’t likely to keep him down. Obama’s America is already the second most successful political documentary ever. D’Souza long ago cast his lot with political entertainment, and at the right-wing box office, a lack of scholarly qualifications may be the best qualification he could have.
And here we have a core evangelical problem stated well – poor scholarship will get you farther than good scholarship. It is a maddening fact that the right wing thought leaders elevate “experts” who cleverly peddle politically useful untruths over nuanced arguments made with documentation and reflection. The masses trust the AFAs, and FRCs of the world. Then when those “experts” are caught up short, there is massive private and internal pressure to prop up the experts, no matter how much evidence exists demonstrating their errors.
Sadly, I think Sessions is correct and while D’Souza may see some bumps in the road, my guess is that many religious right leaders will choose pragmatics over principle.