Aw, Jesus. Here we go.
With the GOP nomination safely under his belt, John McCain has his eyes toward the fall and is continuing to sell his loyalties and political positions faster than Al Gore is selling carbon shares. The latest and most shameless of his liquidations has the man who was savaged by George Bush and Bob Jones’ evangelicals in South Carolina in 2000 welcoming the embrace of megawatt televangelist, Zion tamer, and the leader of Christians United for Israel, San Antonio Uber-minister John Hagee.
McCain remembers all too well that his first bid for the Presidency was thwarted by his naive calls for moderation and tolerance. “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right,” McCain said campaigning in South Carolina on February 20, 2000. The far right was revolted and revolted, sending their votes to George W. Bush, Carl Rove and his team Atwatered the Arizona Senator with their push polls about illegitimate black babies and the 2000 Straight Talk Express wheezed to a halt in the pit.
Fast forward eight years. McCain’s already made an opportunitstic peace with all the haters. He’s nuzzled with his former arch-nemesis, George Bush, both figuratively and way too literally. He’s had his hug with another arch-nemesis, Jerry Falwell, but that was all a wasted gesture as the deceased Moral Majority firebrand isn’t going to help him this year. No matter. McCain has the nomination now and is deep into the process of getting his pander up in all the places he’s missed in the last eight years.
In proclaiming himself “very honored by Pastor Hagee’s endorsement,” McCain aimed for the fences trying to not only bolster his standing among Christian evangelicals, but endearing himself to the millions of voting American Jews who are rightly uneasy at the nuclear dabblings of an Iranian President who has floated rhetoric that some Jews might find provocative, like recommending that Israel be “wiped off the face of the earth.” 20th Century history suggests that Jews aren’t being alarmist when they consider such statements as more than a little threatening.
Hagee was the first Gentile recipient of the San Antonio B’nai B’rith Council’s “Humanitarian of the Year” award. He has been honored in Houston with “Pastor John C. Hagee Day” by then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire, and been presented the ZOA Service Award by former Texas Governor Mark White, and the ZOA Israel Award by U.N. Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick. He has visited Israel more than 22 times. And he wants to wipe Islam off the face of the earth. His vision is of a final battle between East and West where the scourge of those other infidels will be quashed and Israel and Christianity will bask in the triumph of Christ’s return.
That’s the kind of stuff that’s even a little too incendiary for Chris Wallace’s talking points.
Or so it would seem, but the marquee politicians beating a path to kneel at Hagee’s feet tell another story. Newt Gingrich, Congressman Roy Blount, Texas Governor Rick Perry, South Carolina Governor and Veep fave Mark Sanford, and George W. Bush have all given big love to the big man from San Antone.
Senator Joseph Lieberman went them all one better, saying unabashedly, “I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah used to describe Moses. He is an ‘Eesh Elo Kim’, a man of God…he has become the leader of a mighty multitude in pursuit of defense of Israel.” Hot-diggity. If Joe Lieberman is so effusive in his praise, you must be on The Almighty’s speed dial.
If he really is doing the Lord’s work, though, why pray tell does he have to be such a playa hata? That’s not just me, the pasty lapsed-Catholic Gentile, wondering that. The Jewish Daily Forward’s Leonard Fein pondered much the same in a recent blog post “Why Do We Fawn Over John Hagee?” Among a handful of positions that reasonable people might see as tending towards the inflammatory, Hagee has said he believes that the Quran mandates Muslims to murder Christians and Jews; that Adolf Hitler was in cahoots with the Catholic Church to exterminate the Jews; that Hurricane Katrina was “the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans”; and that America is doing the Antichrist’s work if it works in any way to give the Palestineans a legitimate address in Jerusalem. Oh, and he’s funny, too: “Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.” He’ll be here all week. Enjoy the zeal.
But he’s won John McCain’s heart and mind. I thought the fallout from the Terri Schiavo sideshow gave us at least an eight- or ten-year moratorium on fringe religion foolishness. No such luck, I guess. I’m not sure how many in mainstream Judaism have Pastor Hagee’s posters on their walls, but John McCain seems to think it’s plenty, and that he can have them in one tidy little package with all of the extreme religious right. I liked McCain when he made that quote in 2000, but that’s when he was laboring under the delusion that he could win on principles. It only took an old testament Palmetto State shellacking, at the expense of his own good name and that of his daughter, to bring him back around to Jesus.
Oy vey, for lack of a better phrase. Maybe God will swing for Obama this year.