McCain Mispeaks, Hagee Hems and Haws

May 14, 2008

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has gotten himself in hot water lately by toadying up to a couple of the “agents of hate” peppering the religious right. One of these is John Hagee, who believes that God destroyed Katrina because of gay dancing, called the Catholic Church “the great whore,” and is a good buddy to Israel… in the fond hope that the Second Coming will imminently roast it, and all non-Christian Jews, off the face of the Earth.

Hagee has now apologized, sort-of, for the “Great Whore” remarks.

When it comes to the comparison between Obama and his pastor’s Wright’s nutty, anti-american sermons, I think McCain comes out worse here. A church is a faith community, a family, not a magazine subscription that one cancels when someone in it, even a leader, says something you disagree with. McCain, on the other hand, actively courted these people in an explicitly political fashion: gaining their support specifically, wanting people of their views to endorse his campaign’s positions.

McCain’s response to these charges has been characteristically evasive, bristling with irritation that anyone would even bring anything critical up, and then wont to make lazily grandiose dismissals that don’t make a lick of sense. Case in point, when asked by George Stephanopoulos if seeking Hagee’s support was a mistaken, McCain replied:

“Oh, probably, sure. But I admire and respect Dr. Hagee’s leadership of the — of his church,” McCain said, later adding: “I’m glad to have his endorsement. I condemn remarks that are, in any way, viewed as anti-anything.” (emphasis added)

So McCain is anti-anti-anything? Does that mean he’s for everything? Come on. Obviously this statement is nigh incoherent, particularly for a politician who is anti-plenty of things. The sweeping nonsense of this statement comes, I think, from simple disinterest in thinking or addressing the specific controversy and his place in it. As far as I can tell, the man who once thoughtfully lambasted “agents of intolerance” in his own party no longer exists.