There they were yesterday, former black militant leader Eldridge Cleaver and former Nixon White House political operative Charles Colson, embracing and talking about their newfound brotherly love.
One poles apart politically, Colson and Cleaver who both now profess to be "born again" Christians, have been making joint appearances since meeting last August.
They joke about being the odd couple but they say they are serious about their religious conversions.
"I just want to surround him and love him as a brother," Colson said of Cleaver at a press conference of religious broadcasters yesterday. "I think God has raised him up to do marvelous things."
Cleaver, who is awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder in a 1968 shootout with police, described Colson as an "understanding person someone who walks in the same shoes."
Colson was released from prison in February 1975, after serving seven months of a one-to-three year term for obstructing justice in the prosecution of Pentagon Papers codefendent Daniel Ellsberg.
"He can understand what I'm going through because he's an old convict," said Cleaver, grinning. The audience - and Colson - laughed.
Later, in an interview, Colson said of Cleaver, "He's one of the men I feel closet to."
Cleaver has indicated that his conversion began in the south of France in 1975 when he was feeling low. He was watching the sky and began to see faces in the moon, faces of his old heroes - Fidel Castro and Mao Tse-tung. Then the face turned to Jesus, he has said. He said he began to cry uncontrollably.
Cleaver said he began praying and reading the Bible regularly. About a year ago, after his return to the United States after seven years in exile, he became a Christian while in the Alamada County jail in Oakland, Calif.
The grandson of Baptist preachers, later a Roman Catholic, experimenter with various faiths, and finally an atheist, Cleaver said his Christian rebirth has been full of surprises.
"Since this has happened to me, I haven't met one person I don't love," he said yesterday.
Colson's conversion was widely publicized in 1974 and recounted in his book, "Born Again," which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. His main work now is teaching prison inmates about Christ.
Colson and Cleaver were introduced to each other last August at Fellowship House in Washington, a location for Colson's prison ministry. They have made some joint appearances and plan several in the future, including public appeals for Cleaver's legal expenses. While Cleaver spends most of his time rallying money and support for his case, Colson said his involvement is for Clever's sake. Any money Colson raises goes into his Prison Fellowship Foundation, he said.
Colson said yesterday, "I'm not the author of the [Nixon White House] enemies list, although everyone thinks I am, but had I been. I would have put him [Cleaver] as Public Enemy No. 1 To me he was a radical Marxist-Leninist militant bomb-thrower."
As for Cleaver's earlier view of Colson, "He was Nixon's hatchet man and therefore my enemy.
"I had contemp for him. I was glad when he got arrested and exposed . . . When I was in jail, someone gave me his book and I put it on the shelf. I kept it there for several months. One day I picked it up and was immediately fascinated with the verse about the matamorphosis of a butterfly . . ."
"Now I love him as my brother in Christ," Cleaver declared.
Cleaver consults Colson for spiritual advice. "We've been on the phone many times. We've had many times of deep and intense prayer together," Colson said.
"I don't like the Christian exhibitionism, the carnival-like atmosphere of taking a couple of celebrities like Cleaver and Colson," said Colson. "But I feel deeply that what we symbolize is the reconciling power of Christ."