Bill Steigerwald

It's no surprise that conservative author Dinesh D'Souza is receiving criticism from the liberal left for his new book, "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11."

After all, D'Souza charges that "the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities" are "responsible for causing 9/11" and "are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world."

But D'Souza, a former Reagan administration policy analyst whose previous books include "Illiberal Education" and "What's so Great About America," has also taken a lot of flak from conservatives who argue that he fails to prove his case and offers an ultra-PC view of Islam. I talked to D'Souza Feb. 27 by phone from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Q: Are you still alive? You've been beat up pretty good by the left and the right for this book.
A: No, no. I'm very much alive. In a way this sort of reaction is not totally a surprise to me. It's true this is the first book in which I have had conservative criticism. Normally I just drive the left insane. Sure, any book that is going to point a finger at the left and say, “Look, you’ve got a role. You’re responsible for 9/11” is going to cause a furor on the left. I expected that.

The conservative criticism is little more of a surprise. Not because of its existence -- my first chapter in the book is called "What do conservatives 'know' about 9/11 and why it's wrong." And the book is a critique of the conservative and liberal assumptions about 9/11. But what I've been struck by is how vehement some of the conservative critics have been -- not all or even most, but some.

Q: What's the most stinging critique -- the charge of political correctness?
A: I think the political correctness runs the other way. Since 9/11, the right has had a single understanding of this event. It's basically a clash of civilizations. It's us against them. The way you fight it is that the conservatives go to the liberals in America and show them how illiberal the Muslims are. Once the liberals realize this, they supposedly will wake up and join our side. I think this strategy has totally failed. How many liberals have come on board? Not one.

Moreover, the very idea that conservatives could win a war against 1 billion Muslims on the other side when our country is divided on this side is absurd. So I think this has been a losing strategy. As the strategy fails, conservatives have been willing to pull away from (President) Bush but they're not willing to blame themselves. They're not willing to say, "Hey, let's look at our own assumptions and see if we're maybe understanding this a little bit wrong."

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..