Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama's Other Jeremiah Wright


The illustrious Jeremiah Wright was not invited to Barack Obama’s coronation. But the Rev. Joseph Lowery is an apt substitute.

Lowery, who is scheduled to deliver the benediction when the new president is installed January 20, has paled around with Yasser Arafat and promoted a hodgepodge of leftist causes over the years. The Alabama native won’t outright call Arafat a terrorist but he likens George W. Bush to George Wallace.

Although the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation was widely scrutinized because of his opposition to the gay rights agenda the press has ignored Lowery’s well-documented PLO slumming and fancy for Marxist dictators. The January 14 Washington Post profile of the Methodist minister entirely omitted his far left endeavors.

This is par for the course. Conservative white preachers are generally treated much harsher by the media than their black counterparts. Indeed, the media almost never uses the term Christian left for the likes of Jesse Jackson. He gets the non-ideological label “civil rights leader.”

It would be more accurate to call Lowery a hardcore leftist. In 2006, Lowery turned the funeral of Martin Luther King’s widow Coretta into an anti-Bush rally--with Bush seated on the stage behind him.

Lowery said in his eulogy that, "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor!"

Like many civil rights leaders Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King in 1957, started off fighting for equal rights under the law for blacks but then drifted off to all sorts of causes entirely disconnected from--and in the case of affirmative action contradicting--Martin Luther King’s goal of a color blind society.

Lowery and other career civil rights activists, whose power and prestige depends on fighting “injustice,” like to say that the country has made progress but has a long way to go before Martin Luther King’s dream of a color blind society. Actually, we don’t.

The nation long ago ended legal discrimination. The 1964 Civil Rights Act barred discrimination in employment and public accommodations. The next year the Voting Rights Act ended the disenfranchisement of blacks. In 1968 housing discrimination was outlawed.

So civil rights leaders sometimes need new causes and one of their favorite in the 1970s was the PLO. In 1979, Andrew Young, the United Stats ambassador to the United Nations a former lieutenant for Martin Luther King, secretly met with the PLO’s representative to the United Nations in violation of US policy that forbid any talks with the PLO. Young was fired. To show their solidarity with Young, Lowery and other civil rights leaders ventured to Lebanon to meet Yasser Arafat.

At their meeting in West Beirut Arafat and the civil rights leaders linked arms to sing the movement’s signature song, “We Shall Overcome.”

Afterwards Lowery told the Washington Post that he was pleasantly surprised by Arafat’s charm and charisma. "I expected a mean, brutal, gruff and rough fellow," said Lowery. "In fact, he's a very charming fellow -- very informed, intelligent, an engineer by vocation. He gave us a history of the struggle. He started out softly, and then when he warmed to his task, he got emotional."

Lowery declined to label Arafat a terrorist. But the PLO chieftain himself was a bit more candid in the meeting with Lowery and his comrades. He vowed to continue “our struggle and confrontation inside the occupied territories.”

Lowery and the other ministers then invited their warm and fuzzy friend to visit the United States but Arafat never showed. Instead, in the 1980s Lowery turned his attention to Nicaragua where he supported the Marxist Sandinista government that was battling the US-backed Contras. Lowery even held a reception for Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in Atlanta, according to religious left expert Marc Tooley.

When not busy schmoozing with Ortega Lowery served on the board of the Christic Institute, which peddled all sorts of conspiracy theories about the United States involvement in Latin America. Lowery took up that cause. In 1996 he called for a Congressional investigation to determine if the US government tried to sell drugs in black neighborhoods to raise money for the Contras.

Arrested outside the DEA headquarters to protest the alleged connection Lowery said "There is evidence inside those buildings that confirms that the CIA helped to destroy black folks. That's called genocide.

Rev. Wright, of course, also traffics in these kind of conspiracy theories. Now wonder that Lowery has told reporters he’s the same kind of preacher as Wright.

These days, Lowery’s heads the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda, an advocacy group that seems to take the politically correct view on most every issue. The group claims to favor education empowerment but ignores school choice. It wants shorter sentences for criminals but overlooks the sad spectacle of black on black crime.

Lowery doesn’t seem to focus on much overseas anymore but his prior dalliance with Arafat still makes Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, jittery “To have Lowery as part of the inauguration only plays into” concern by Israel supporters “that Obama is going to be less friendly and less sympathetic to Israel’s difficult situation than other presidents have been. I am concerned that a person who is so hostile to Israel is going to participate in a visible way in the inauguration ceremonies.”

Lowery did not respond to interview requests.

Evan Gahr has written about race for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and American Spectator.