Dinesh D'Souza's Brazilian Conspiracy Theory

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2010 8:37 AM

Dinesh D'Souza's Brazilian Conspiracy Theory

A friendly commenter on my post about Newt Gingrich's approval of D'Souza's article "How Obama Thinks" reminded me of this line in the article.

Why support oil drilling off the coast of Brazil but not in America?Obama believes that the West uses a disproportionate share of theworld's energy resources, so he wants neocolonial America to have lessand the former colonized countries to have more.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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What's D'Souza referring to? In April 2009 the Export-Import Bank of the United States gave preliminary approval for a $2 billion loan to Petrobras, Brazil's state oil company. If April 2009 sounds like too early for Obama to have packed the Export-Import Bank with his Kenyan anti-colonial appointees, it was: At the time, the board consisted of five George W. Bush appointees. They approved it, according to sources collected by Snopes, for the reason the Export-Import Bank usually approves things -- to "encourage purchases of U.S. goods from Petrobras." And the $2 billion wasn't even taxpayer money, but private investment.

So where did this idea that Obama was funding oil exploration in Brazil come from? First, predictably, it came from Glenn Beck. In August, during the debate over the offshore drilling moratorium, it came from a sloppy editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a "preliminarycommitment" letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and hasdiscussed with Brazil the possibility of increasing that amount. Ex-ImBank says it has not decided whether the money will come in the form ofa direct loan or loan guarantees. Either way, this corporate foreignaid may strike some readers as odd, given that the U.S. Treasury seemsdesperate for cash and Petrobras is one of the largest corporations inthe Americas.

I'll reiterate that this "corporate foreign aid" did not actually consist of taxpayer dollars. So D'Souza's point about Brazil is bogus -- it wasn't Obama appointees who approved the deal, and the Bush appointees who did intended to increase U.S. exports to Brazil.

I've read much of D'Souza's upcoming book, from which this article was adapted, and this is not the only lazy error. It's a revealing one, however, demonstrating just how eager he is to find "aha!" moments of Obama's alleged "anti-colonial" politics. He's so eager that he doesn't have time to check the facts.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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