Right-wing social/political theorist and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, who once wrote a book arguing that “the cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11,” has a similar take on the carnage in Paris.
“I don’t retreat one inch from that assertion,” D’Souza says, referring to his claim in The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, that “the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.
“The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks,” he wrote back then in 2007, “were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns…”
Eight years later, the 54-year-old D’Souza—a native of Mumbai, India, who became a United States citizen in 1991—is promoting a different if equally provocative volume, Stealing America: What My Experience with Criminal Gangs Taught Me About Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party.
The book, his 14th, is an incendiary meditation on D’Souza’s eight months of punitive confinement in a halfway house in San Diego—his sentence after pleading guilty last year to a felony violation of campaign finance laws.
His epiphany, while bunking with murderers, armed robbers, drug dealers, thugs, and other lowlifes, is that President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and indeed the Democratic establishment and the entire progressive movement, are guided by many of the same gangsterish impulses.
Growing up upper-middle-class in the corrupt body politic of Indian democracy, where bureaucrats think nothing of shaking down citizens under threat of ruination, clearly inform D’Souza’s jaded political insights, though he says of himself: “It’s odd. As a Christian I have the low view of human nature, but even so, my temperament is optimistic.”
Yet the day after the horrific bloodletting in Paris, D’Souza can’t resist declaring that Muslim revulsion at French “cultural decadence,” and that of the West in general, is among the factors that incited Islamic terrorists on Friday night to slaughter 129 innocent civilians, and wound more than 350 others, many critically, in a coordinated fusillade on restaurants, a rock concert, and a soccer match.
“It’s a real wakeup call for the French—and a much bigger one than Charlie Hebdo,” he says, citing the January massacre at the Paris office of the satirical French magazine. “I think these things always have multiple components and even in The Enemy at Home, I never suggested that Muslims are motivated by one thing. They’re motivated by Western action in the Middle East, they’re motivated by Iran, they’re motived by Syria—and they’re motivated by what they perceive as Western cultural decadence…
“They despise it and they see it as the polar opposite of Islamic values,” he continues. “And they see it as vulnerable. In other words, they can get away with it. I keep hearing CNN saying, ‘What will the international community do?’ I can give you the same answer: Nothing.”
The previous evening, at the very moment that Paris is burning, D’Souza and I—unaware of the ongoing mayhem—had sat in the dimly lit bar of the Hotel London in Midtown Manhattan, talking about his life and times and pawing at a bowl of mixed nuts to the unrelenting accompaniment of cheesy pop songs wafting from the ceiling. (D’Souza didn’t learn of the bloodbath till I texted him the next morning.)
Dressed in a gray zippered exercise jacket, gray pants and sneakers—an anomalously athletic outfit for a man in the thick of middle-age spread—he looked a tad travel-weary, having just arrived from San Diego via a stopover in Houston, the hometown of his new fiancée, Republican crusader Debbie Fancher, a divorced mother of two.
“Immigrant, patriot, and the woman I love,” D’Souza writes on the dedication page of Stealing America.
“We’re getting married in March,” he confided. “Debbie is a Latina from Venezuela. Her dad is Venezuelan and her mom is Mexican…We began seeing each other early this year and I proposed on Sept. 1. She’s 49—but she doesn’t look it, I’m glad to say.”
Things these days are apparently coming up roses for D’Souza, who since 2012 has endured the kind of personal trouble—much of it self-inflicted—that might have crushed a less resilient soul.
There was a sex scandal with a newlywed two decades his junior, briefly his fiancée even though they both were married to other people, that lost him his job as president of The King’s College, a small evangelical Christian institution in Manhattan.
“We parted ways soon after,” D’Souza said about his illicit affair with Denise Odie Joseph, a conservative blogger and passionate admirer who was equally smitten with him.
“It was very stressful and she was subjected to a lot of abuse, which was a hard thing to take. She wasn’t used to that. It was painful. We decided to go our separate ways a while ago.”
His relationship with Joseph was revealed by the Christian-oriented World magazine in November 2012, and D’Souza attributes the story to a “vendetta” by World editor in chief Marvin Olasky, who quit as the King’s College provost shortly after D’Souza was named president in 2010.
“Marvin was my number two…He just had strange ideological grievances against me,” says D’Souza, who was raised Catholic in India but later became an evangelical Protestant. “He thought I was a crypto-Catholic and he thought King’s College should be staunchly evangelical…He’s got a demented crusade against evolution and he saw me as a crypto-evolutionist. But I’m completely open about it. He’s an interesting phenomenon. He’s kind of an intelligent philistine.”
Olasky fires back: “Since I haven’t personally written about Dinesh in almost five years, and the last time we covered him in World was that extraordinary incident, this must be the laziest vendetta in history.”
Then came D’Souza’s acrimonious divorce (PDF) from Dixie Brubaker, his wife of 20 years and the mother of their college-age daughter; then a federal prosecution that nearly landed him in prison and cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines (for arranging illegal campaign contributions to his Dartmouth College classmate, Wendy Long, who was running for Senate from New York in 2012, and filing false statements about the donations; Denise Joseph, it turns out, also figured in D’Souza’s prosecution, writing an illicit check to Long’s campaign, for which D’Souza reimbursed her).
D’Souza, who teaches English eight hours a week to Hispanic immigrants in San Diego to fulfill the community service obligation of his five years’ probation, is banned for life from voting because he’s a convicted felon.
It’s a less than delicious irony, perhaps, for an ideological celebrity who made his bones as a conservative provocateur in college, toiled in Republican think tanks and on the domestic policy staff of the Reagan White House, and today is warmly welcomed on Fox News and the right-wing lecture circuit, much like two of his former girlfriends, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter.
“I would only be able to vote if I was pardoned by a president,” D’Souza said, enumerating just one of the reasons he’s rooting for a Republican to take the White House next November. “I know about three of the candidates,” he said. “I know Rand Paul. I know Ted Cruz. I met Ben Carson but I don’t know him well. I met a couple of the others but I don’t know them.”
When I suggested to D’Souza that he’s been through the wringer in recent years, he replied: “Yes and no.”
“On the one hand, they were personally tough,” D’Souza said of his trainwreck years, “because I dealt with the King’s College controversy and scandal, right on top of the Wendy Long issue. But they were also times when I had my greatest success. I kind of stumbled into the movie thing.”
His polemical film, 2016: Obama’s America, enjoyed a box office of more $33 million, the second-highest-grossing political documentary after Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
“I went through a painful arbitration with the two of my co-producers, but all of that turned out very well in my favor,” D’Souza continued. “And I put out two books as No. 1 on the best-seller list—Obama’s America and then America.”
Much like he did to Obama, D’Souza is filming a hatchet job on candidate Clinton with the working title Hillary’s America.
“Anybody who considers the Clintons to be Simon-pure and naïve, and acting out of a belief in equality of opportunity for all, has no sense of what’s really going on,” D’Souza said, arguing that both of his favorite villains—Obama and Clinton—are determined to loot the American taxpayer for nefarious purposes.
“I think that Barack Obama genuinely wants to set the balance of the world right. I think he’s a global redistributionist,” he says. “That’s different than ‘How do I put American foreign policy up for sale?’ and ‘How do I figure out how to cash in as much as I can?”—in D’Souza’s view, Clinton’s motivation. “Obama is willing to do things that run athwart the law, or go around the law, but usually for ideological reasons. So for Obama, ideology supplies the goal. He’s willing to be sort of gangsterish in how he goes about it. But for Hillary, gangsterism is the goal.”
Hardly afraid of being called “tendentious”—indeed, he embraces the usually censorious adjective, and is happy to be thought of as the Michael Moore of the Right—D’Souza also seems to possess a certain blustery grandiloquence.
While his campaign finance prosecution was unusually severe—such infractions are frequently handled as civil, not criminal, violations—D’Souza insisted that it was ordered from the very top.
“What I did was stupid, but I didn’t benefit from it,” he said, arguing that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, one of Obama’s closest allies, committed a far greater violation by taking $31,000 from his campaign coffers to spend on trinkets purchased from a granddaughter’s jewelry business. “That is a corrupt thing to do…But nobody is even investigating him, let alone prosecuting him.”
D’Souza claimed he was personally singled out for selective prosecution by President Obama—or by Attorney General Eric Holder, doing Obama’s dirty work—in retribution for his hit movie that trashed Obama, for which he traveled to Kenya and interviewed the president’s African relatives.
“My inference is from the fact that I’ve been very critical of Obama,” he said. “And in my successful movie, I just didn’t criticize Obama politically, I kind of got into Obama’s world. Here I am at his family homestead in Kenya with his grandmother standing across from me. Here I am interviewing his brother in a slum of Nairobi. So I suspect I ticked him off. Whether he instructed Holder, or Holder just thought, ‘I’ll do his bidding,’ I would have no way of knowing.”