God botherers bother McCain

Just watched an immensely satisfying account of John McCain’s rejection of Pastor Hagee’s endorsement on CNN News. Essentially, Hagee described the holocaust as God’s will in hastening the Jews return to Israel: “Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.”

If you haven’t been following this, Hagee is the powerful televangelist who inter alia has described Roman Catholicism as a “Godless theology”, and Hurricane Katrina as “an act of God”, punishment for “a level of sin that was offensive to God.”

Why so satisfying?

After they surfaced in mid-March, the right-wing propaganda-TV Fox News played excerpts from tapes of Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright’s hate-speech on continuous loop for weeks. To this day their star performer Sean Hannity repeats the most damaging phrases (e.g. “God Damn America”) with the frenzied monotony of a Buddhist prayer wheel. Nice to see the tables turned.

Of course, McCain’s relationship with Hagee isn’t the same as Obama’s with Wright, as McCain was at pains to point out in his rejection of Hagee. “But let me also be clear”, he said, “Rev. Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser, and I did not attend his church for 20 years.” McCain’s statement that, “I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today,” could be seen as disingenuous.

However, this is both an embarrassing and potentially very important development for McCain.

First, McCain went to great lengths to court Hagee, apparently over a period of more than a year. The announcement of Hagee’s endorsement of McCain was made with great fanfare. More than could be said of Wright, Hagee was arguably, “part of McCain’s political strategy”. Today’s revelation throws doubt on McCain’s judgement.

Second, Hagee’s endorsement was important to McCain. The religious right has been a key part of the conservative coalition underpinning Republican successes in recent decades.

In 2000, McCain rejected their support, at great cost: “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.”

One of McCain’s perceived weaknesses has been the ambivalence that the religious right and other “true conservatives” have towards him. Hagee’s endorsement went a long way to repairing that breach, and promised both votes and sorely needed cash. He may now have lost some of that political and financial capital. Other right-wing religious leaders will think twice before endorsing McCain and having their words scrutinised by the media.

I guess that’s what comes of trying to pander to the agents of intolerance whilst chasing votes in the centre.

[Footnote: It’s not as though McCain wasn’t warned (hat tip to whoar). A quick intro to the religious right in US politics can be found in Nicholas Guyatt’s LRB review of last November. He describes the fissures within the religious right and argues that deliverance from their influence may be at hand. For a good laugh, as well as an insight into what the evangelicals get up to, read this excerpt from Matt Taibii’s Jesus Made Me Puke.]

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One Response to “God botherers bother McCain”

  1. Sconehead Says:

    Pastor Hagee’s one endearing quality is that at least he’s consistent. He’s wrong about everything. Especially Roman Catholicism.

    (BTW, What’s the story with his name? Has he taken it on for a bet? It sounds like some sort of Italo-Scots dish)

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