Then D'Souza started "eavesdropping" on the conversations of Fossedal and others. "I was intrigued by their intellectual daring, their passion for ideas. They would say things that at first seemed almost outrageous, and then they'd defend them tenaciously." D'Souza's flair for analysis took wing. Like Fossedal, he "got excited by defending my positions, backing them up with learning and wit. My natural interest in ideas was kindled." D'Souza was fascinated that ideas had practical applications. "You could have a discussion about Hamlet in English class, but at the end of the day, so what? These guys were debating tax rates and the Soviet Union, and it was all connected, in some ways, to Reagan. I shared the view of Reagan as being a somewhat likable but ridiculous guy." He liked Reagan's iconoclastic view. "He was the first to say, 'Government isn't the solution, it's the problem.' That was appealing, even though it never occurred to me that government should be smaller or larger." Though "a spectator and an outsider" (his wallet contained his student visa and $500 to fall back on), he admits to "being drawn into the conservative fray."
The Dartmouth Review featured conservative opinion and bathroom humor, geared to lampoon liberal orthodoxies. In Letters to a Young Conservative, D'Souza writes that to attack the liberal bias in society or on campus, "The conservative must stop being conservative. More precisely, he must be philosophically conservative but temperamentally radical." At the Review, radicals they were. The paper quickly became known for its outrageous claims: one, written by Keeney Jones in response to Dartmouth's having gone coed in 1972, is notorious: "The question is not whether women should be educated at Dartmouth. The question is whether women should be educated at all." Today, D'Souza justifies these and other pranks as a "necessary strategy to break the liberal intellectual monopoly of the campus. Which is exactly the way rebels of the '60s and '70s saw their antics -- a way of breaking the conservative monopoly."
Initially, the paper's brashness was "discomforting" to D'Souza; he shied away from confrontation. But by his senior year, D'Souza was the editor. Alongside 40 others, he was, he says, an ardent "rebel conservative." So arch, in fact, that his opponents nicknamed him "Distort D'Newsa." How did it happen that he became an ardent rebel? A series of jolts connected his wiring. The anti-American international students stirred his ire, and the militancy of the paper's advocates fired up his thinking. He began to realize that his family and his culture in India had embedded in him a set of conservative values he seemed unaware of. "As a product of my upbringing -- and I'm not unusual at all -- I reflected the social conservatism of Asian-American cultures. This is an issue on which the whole swath of civilization that would begin in the Middle East and go all the way to China agrees on. In behavior, the Asian-American group is the most socially conservative group in America, to the right of evangelical Christians." D'Souza cites the rates of Asian-American illegitimacy and divorce as much lower than those of evangelicals. During his time at Dartmouth, he also discovered how unfazed he was by certain American cultural taboos. He recalls that when he spoke against what gays, women, or minorities believed in, his comments made "everyone quiver. To me, it meant nothing. Someone would say to me, 'You're being insensitive.' In India, there's no moral outrage attached" to violating another's sensitivity. D'Souza did not cower before liberal assumptions, the "sacred cows" of the Left -- white racism causes black underperformance, for example.
What really got D'Souza's goat was that many at Dartmouth believed the school was "a very racist place." D'Souza remembers hammering back at such opinions. "What are you talking about? The admissions policy benefits Hispanics and African-Americans and Native Americans. There's a full scholarship program for any Native American Indian who wants to come here. There's a large Native American studies program; there's all kinds of stuff Dartmouth does with local tribes. So if anything, it looks like the native Indians are getting a lot of benefits and attention, while the real Indians" -- a self-referential jest -- "are on the sidelines. In what way is this a form of oppression?"
By the end of college, D'Souza's values were set -- by Indian nature and Dartmouth nurture. Were these two things ever at odds? Not at first, he says; not in the heyday of college, when he was exercising his advocate's voice. (D'Souza's first job was to edit an anthology called the Catholic Classics.) For him, the freedom of thought and the exercise of free speech in the American university engendered confidence in his own opinions. He would align himself politically as he saw fit: his choice would come down against the prevailing liberal notions of college students in the 1970s.
CONSERVATIVE AND PARTISAN
Since Dartmouth, the conservative fray has been quite remunerative for D'Souza. Six years ago, he and his wife bought their home in Fairbanks Ranch. The nearly 8000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, seven and a half baths, and a four-car garage, where they keep their maroon 1992 Jaguar XJS. A circular drive fronts the French country stone house. The cathedral-like front room, with its full-length mirrors and tapestries, has an 18th-century French decor of (veneered) golden maple burl furniture. The slick floors echo like a museum as one walks through. In his office, there's wall-to-wall leopard-print carpet; floor-to-ceiling bookcases are stocked with titles in history, politics, and philosophy. The view out back features a bright blue pool and the arboretum-like landscape.
Today, at his desk, D'Souza is comfortably dressed in preppy garb. Plain shirt (with the polo player insignia), plain pants, tasseled loafers. At one point, his wife Dixie breezes in. She is blonde, petite, California-tanned, and effervescent about her husband. She's wearing a stylish pink plastic-leather rain jacket. We exchange pleasantries, and she's gone before I can respond to her evident delight in marriage. The D'Souzas met in 1988 at the Reagan White House, where he was a policy advisor and Dixie was an intern. She had read his articles and heard that he, too, worked there, so, D'Souza recalls, "She decided I would be a good contact. She figured I was some 60-year-old guy. She came into my office -- I was on the phone -- and she thought I was the intern. She thought, 'Who is this arrogant intern with his feet up on the desk in his boss's office?' " A mutual love of things conservative ensued; a long courtship resulted in a wedding in 1992. Dixie went to work for Texaco, writing summaries of government hearings. She quit after their daughter was born, though now, with more time, she researches news stories, usually on popular culture, for her husband. D'Souza says that moving to San Diego from Washington in 1999 fulfilled their mutual desire to get out of the capital. "In Washington, you are what you do. It's good if you're single, but it's not kind to family life."