Senator Obama Holds News Conference Call for Jewish Media Reporters
Given the predominant loyalty of Jewish Americans to the Democratic Party (which, to my regret, remains overwhelmingly the case), as the campaign of Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination grows stronger, American Jews are increasingly interested in his views on issues of concern to them. Today Senator Obama held a conference call today for reporters from Jewish newspapers and media, the reporters were eager to hear his views. Senator Obama was just as eager to put to bed false rumors that have been circulating that he is secretly a Muslim and took his Senatorial oath on a Koran. You can listen to the entire conference call at the JTA website. A JTA news brief on the conference call appears here.
The more substantive and difficult questions for Senator Obama concerned his actual Christian affiliation, not the false Moslem one. Richard Cohen, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post, recently had this to say about Senator Obama's true religious affiliation:
Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrahkan.
Maybe for Wright and some others, Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." For most Americans, though, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, particularly in the form of anti-Semitism. Over the years, he has compiled an awesome record of offensive statements, even denigrating the Holocaust by falsely attributing it to Jewish cooperation with Hitler -- "They helped him get the Third Reich on the road." His history is a rancid stew of lies.
It's important to state right off that nothing in Obama's record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama's top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances.
Fine. But where I differ with Axelrod and, I assume, Obama is that praise for an anti-Semitic demagogue is not a minor difference or an intrachurch issue. The Obama camp takes the view that its candidate, now that he has been told about the award, is under no obligation to speak out on the Farrakhan matter. It was not Obama's church that made the award but a magazine. This is a distinction without much of a difference. And given who the parishioner is, the obligation to speak out is all the greater. He could be the next American president. Where is his sense of outrage?
At the press conference today, when asked why it was sufficient for him to denounce his church’s recent praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan but not resign from the church itself, Obama repeated his condemnation of Farrakhan’s “reprehensible” anti-Semitic views. Then he added, "My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic. If I have, I would have left the church.”
Obama also took questions on the peace process, the situation in Gaza, and how he would deal with Iranian nukes.