'For Me There is a Double Standard'

Jesse Jackson talks about Castro, Arafat and his own public perception.

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This story originally appeared in the December 12, 1987, issue of U.S.News & World Report.

In this week's installment, the third of his 13-part syndicated television series on "The Next President," presented by U.S. News, David Frost talks with the Rev. Jesse Jackson about the race question, Fidel Castro and the problems in the Middle East. Some excerpts from the interview conducted by Frost at Jackson's Chicago headquarters:

Q  Would it be easier in a way for you to be President if you were white?

No one asks any white candidate, "Can a white win?"...There is a kind of double standard. You almost have to be superior to be equal. I mean if one of the candidates now running had brought [Navy Lt. Robert] Goodman back home from Syria and had not left arms with [Syrian President Hafez] Assad, had met Castro and challenged him head up, and brought prisoners back from Cuba, if one of them had confronted [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev as I did before the whole world and challenged him on the question of nuclear testing and deployment and also about Soviet Jewry, if one of them had met the front-line heads of state of African [nations]—from Nigeria on down to South Africa—as I have, they would be considered bona fide foreign-policy experts. But for me there is somehow a double standard or a lagging question. In some sense, it forces you to be better, just to be equal. We also know that the media has basically disciplined white Americans against black Americans. We are projected every day in the media as less intelligent than we are, less hard working than we work, less patriotic than we are, less universal than we are and more violent than we are. So you kind of start with those negatives. So when this campaign began, there were high negative ratings against me....But now we find that the negative ratings are going down in proportion to my ability to get access and to penetrate. As I can get to white churches, or to labor-union halls, or to family farmers or into schools—and so it's like I'm guilty till proven innocent. Q  And to those who say, well Rev. Jesse Jackson, what experience or what qualifications does he have to be President of the United States?

...Leadership is not just defined by those who are elected officials. Dr. [Martin Luther] King was not an elected official. [Mahatma] Gandhi was not an elected official. So many great leaders are not elected officials. That is a form of leadership, but not the only one. Q  Would you embrace [Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yassir] Arafat again?

...Jimmy Carter embraced [the late Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev. That does not mean he's a Communist. The Pope met with [Austrian President Kurt] Waldheim. That does not mean he is a Nazi looking to take Jews to a death camp. And so, I met Arafat...and it's rather normal procedure in the Middle East for people to embrace. I was not embracing his philosophical outlook....I was there appealing to him to shift his stance toward Israel....I believe Israel has a right to exist, with secure borders. I believe the Palestinians need a state. They need the right to exist with secure borders. But somehow we must demilitarize that region. Presently, neither can live in peace. Q  But who do you think is the sponsor of...terrorism in the Middle East basically?

Oh it's coming from, from all sides. Q  [Libya's Muammar] Qadhafi?

...It would be a mistake to limit it...just to Quadhafi....It would be a mistake to try to reduce the terrorism in, in that region to one man and, and to one country. It's in Israel. It's on the West Bank. It's in Lebanon. It's in Iran. It's in Iraq. It's in the Persian Gulf....Ayatollah Khomeini should not be mining harbors in the Persian Gulf. That's terroristic. Mr. [President Ronald] Reagan should not be mining harbors in Nicaragua. That's terroristic. Let's be for human rights and be against terrorism. And let's measure it by one yardstick. That's what the golden rule would challenge us to do: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.