Obama and the Minister
By RONALD KESSLER
Wall Street Journal
March 14, 2008; Page A19
In a sermon delivered at Howard University, Barack Obama's longtime minister, friend and adviser blamed America for starting the AIDS virus, training professional killers, importing drugs and creating a racist society that would never elect a black candidate president.
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Mr. Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, gave the sermon at the school's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Washington on Jan. 15, 2006.
"We've got more black men in prison than there are in college," he began. "Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."
Mr. Wright thundered on: "America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. . . . We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers . . . We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi . . . We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God."
His voice rising, Mr. Wright said, "We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic. . . . We care nothing about human life if the end justifies the means. . . ."
Concluding, Mr. Wright said: "We started the AIDS virus . . . We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty. . . ."
Considering this view of America, it's not surprising that in December Mr. Wright's church gave an award to Louis Farrakhan for lifetime achievement. In the church magazine, Trumpet, Mr. Wright spoke glowingly of the Nation of Islam leader. "His depth on analysis [sic] when it comes to the racial ills of this nation is astounding and eye-opening," Mr. Wright said of Mr. Farrakhan. "He brings a perspective that is helpful and honest."
After Newsmax broke the story of the award to Farrakhan on Jan. 14, Mr. Obama issued a statement. However, Mr. Obama ignored the main point: that his minister and friend had spoken adoringly of Mr. Farrakhan, and that Mr. Wright's church was behind the award to the Nation of Islam leader.
Instead, Mr. Obama said, "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree." Trumpet is owned and produced by Mr. Wright's church out of the church's offices, and Mr. Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor.
Meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland on Feb. 24, Mr. Obama described Mr. Wright as being like "an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with." He rarely mentions the points of disagreement.
Mr. Obama went on to explain Mr. Wright's anti-Zionist statements as being rooted in his anger over the Jewish state's support for South Africa under its previous policy of apartheid. As with his previous claim that his church gave the award to Mr. Farrakhan because of his work with ex-offenders, Mr. Obama appears to have made that up.
Neither the presentation of the award nor the Trumpet article about the award mentions ex-offenders, and Mr. Wright's statements denouncing Israel have not been qualified in any way. Mr. Obama nonetheless told the Jewish leaders that the award to Mr. Farrakhan "showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community." That is an understatement.
As for Mr. Wright's repeated comments blaming America for the 9/11 attacks because of what Mr. Wright calls its racist and violent policies, Mr. Obama has said it sounds as if the minister was trying to be "provocative."
Hearing Mr. Wright's venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through numerous similar sermons by Mr. Wright.
Indeed, Mr. Obama has described Mr. Wright as his "sounding board" during the two decades he has known him. Mr. Obama has said he found religion through the minister in the 1980s. He joined the church in 1991 and walked down the aisle in a formal commitment of faith.
The title of Mr. Obama's bestseller "The Audacity of Hope" comes from one of Wright's sermons. Mr. Wright is one of the first people Mr. Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004. Mr. Obama consulted Mr. Wright before deciding to run for president. He prayed privately with Mr. Wright before announcing his candidacy last year.
Mr. Obama obviously would not choose to belong to Mr. Wright's church and seek his advice unless he agreed with at least some of his views. In light of Mr. Wright's perspective, Michelle Obama's comment that she feels proud of America for the first time in her adult life makes perfect sense.
Much as most of us would appreciate the symbolism of a black man ascending to the presidency, what we have in Barack Obama is a politician whose closeness to Mr. Wright underscores his radical record.
The media have largely ignored Mr. Obama's close association with Mr. Wright. This raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country. Those questions deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far.
Mr. Kessler, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter, is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com and the author of "The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack" (Crown Forum, 2007).
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