The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who for years was the pastor of Barack and Michelle Obama, told author Edward Klein in a three-hour interview for his book, The Amateur, that the first couple are not "church people." Released last week, the book instantly hit The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and is drawing both praise and criticism for its portrayal of the president's inexperience prior to and during his first term.
The Christian Post caught up with Klein, a former editor for The New York Times Magazine, and asked him to discuss some details in his book, especially as it relates to the Obamas' faith and his chances of winning a second term in November.
On why he wrote the book, Klein said he was amazed that as an experienced journalist, "a largely unknown, African-American senator, who had accomplished very little in his professional career, comes out of nowhere, trances and fascinates millions of voters, gets elected to the White House and then turns out to be something we've never seen before – and that is an amateur in the Oval Office."
CP: Some analysts argue that the mainstream media never properly examined President Obama's background prior to the 2008 primary and general election. Do you think that was the case?
Klein: Absolutely. The mainstream media drank the kool-aid and was rooting for Obama to become the next president in a fashion we have never seen before in American history. Instead of covering the election as professional journalists, many reporters and news sources were simply participants who were trying to elect Obama. That is not the role of a professional journalist.
CP: Readers of The Christian Post are curious about the religious background of our elected leaders. How would you describe the Obamas' faith?
Klein: In my three-hour interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright in November of 2011, he said Barack Obama knew a great deal about Islam, was steeped in Islam and understood Islam from his childhood. But, in fact, he knew little of Christianity and that Wright taught Obama how to accept Jesus without denouncing his family and friends in the Muslim community. But when I asked Wright if he converted Obama to Christianity, he said "I don't think so."
Wright said of the Obamas, "These are not church people." As far as Michelle was concerned, that she was not brought up in the church and as far as the couple themselves, the church is not very important to them.
CP: How does President Obama want America to perceive his religious beliefs?
Klein: There is no question he wants the country to think of him as a devout Christian.
CP: Does that hurt him internationally or with Americans who are not Christians?
Klein: No, because when he goes abroad, he makes it plain that everyone is entitled to their own view of things and that he respects Islam as much as he does Christianity.
CP: David Axelrod, the Obama campaign manager, recently said that Mitt Romney's Mormon religion should not be an issue during the presidential campaign. Do you think religion will be an issue in the campaign?
Klein: In my view, you won't see the fingerprints of Obama or his campaign on or anywhere near Romney's religion. In other words, what you read about it will not be attributed to the campaign. But you will see Romney's faith attacked by many individuals and groups who are hoping to reelect the president.
CP: Do you feel that is a direction the Obama camp wants to go in given his own religious views could be made an issue?
Klein: I think President Obama at this stage of the game feels protected from the mainstream media's inspection of his religious sincerity – that they will not bring up his beliefs or his devotion.
CP: What do you feel the Obama campaign is most concerned about going into this election year?
Klein: That they do not have a record to run on – that they don't have anything to boast or write home about. The county is still in an economic recession and we are seen as a weak and declining power in Europe. That is President Obama's number one concern at this point.
CP: Is the campaign truly concerned they could lose in November?
Klein: Yes, I think so. No president has won reelection with unemployment over eight percent since FDR (President Franklin Roosevelt). That was a long time ago. During the 2008 campaign, he sold the American people on the promise of "hope and change." This time he cannot use that same strategy because it will not work.
CP: Why do you believe Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary to President Obama?
Klein: They were over confident. Who would have thought an ultra-liberal, first-term senator with no record or accomplishments could defeat her? No one.
The Obama campaign was smarter, quicker on their feet than the Clinton camp. Obama and his associates are fantastic campaigners but have little ability or skill to govern.
CP: Will former President and Mrs. Clinton help President Obama win a second term?
Klein: I think they will. It's no secret that Bill Clinton wants back in the White House and will do whatever he can to elect his wife, Hillary Clinton. He's told her and his associates that. But in order to have credibility in 2016, they have to be seen as loyal Democrats in 2012. They can't just sit on the sidelines but we won't see as big an effort from them because there is no love lost between the Clintons and the Obamas. [President] Clinton has told his closest associates that he thinks Obama is an amateur – that he doesn't know how the real world works.
CP: Do you believe President Obama's recent position supporting same-sex marriage will impact his chances for election in November, especially among African-American voters?
Klein: Yes, I do. I do indeed. African-Americans in general, when it comes to social issues, are more conservative than people give them credit for. When it comes to same-sex marriage – and this is not a popular issue in their community – they will have to make a tough decision. However, I do think the African-American turnout will be lower than it was in 2008. This could create a huge obstacle for his reelection efforts.