Obama Reassures NE Ohio Jewish Leaders on Faith, Farrakhan & Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sen. Barack Obama met privately with Jewish leaders in northeastern Ohio this morning to discuss his candidacy for president. At the meeting, Obama reportedly responded to three concerns put to him by the Jewish leaders.
First, Obama was asked to put to rest questions about his religion, i.e., to state unequivocally that he is a Christian and not a Muslim. This Obama did, explaining once again that his middle name "Hussein" is from his grandfather and does not reflect his faith, and that he is in fact a devout Christian.
Second, Obama was questioned about his failure to denounce remarks by the minister of his church, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., that are favorable to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, notorious for his extremely anti-Semitic statements. I don't have the precise wording, but Obama reportedly responded by comparing the situation at his church to a family that has an aging uncle who says embarrassing things at family gatherings, but is not challenged face-to-face because he is a relative and is elderly. Obama reportedly said that his minister is near retirement and Obama does not feel it is appropriate in the minister's final days to say negative things about him in public.
Third, the candidate was asked to respond to reports that Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, is an important advisor to Obama on foreign policy and is likely to be a part of his government if Obama is elected. (Brzezinski joined in a controversial 2007 letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that advocated "genuine dialogue" with Hamas as more strategically effective than efforts to further isolate the group.) Obama responded that he has had one lunch and received three emails from Brzezinski, that Brzezinski is not a senior advisor to Obama, and that Brzezinski would not be Secretary of State or a senior advisor to Obama as president.
This conversation was characterized to me as being an effort to put these hot-button questions aside so that Obama and Clinton can be fairly evaluated on their respective merits.
UPDATE: A much more complete account of Obama's discussion with Cleveland area Jewish leaders is here.