One of this week's hysterical press scandals was that Minister Louis Farrakhan praised Barack Obama's candidacy even though Obama had previously denounced numerous Farrakhan remarks and the Obama campaign did nothing to seek out the Farrakhan praise. Nonetheless, Tim Russert demanded that Obama jump through multiple hoops to prove that he has no connection to -- and, in fact, "rejects" -- the ideas espoused by Farrakhan deemed to be radical and hateful.
Yesterday, though, the equally fringe, radical and hateful (at least) Rev. John Hagee -- a white evangelical who is the pastor of a sprawling "mega-church" in Texas -- enthusiastically endorsed John McCain. Did McCain have to jump through the same hoops which Russert and others set up for Obama and "denounce" Hagee's extremism and "reject" his support? No; quite the opposite. McCain said he was "very honored" to receive this endorsement and, when asked about some of Hagee's more twisted views, responded: "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support."
McCain's sainted supporter, Joe Lieberman, last year spoke to Hagee's group and lavished him with such obsequious praise that Lieberman actually compared Hagee, favorably, to Moses. Why is Louis Farrakhan deemed by our political establishment to be so radioactive as to not be fit for good company -- black candidates are required to repudiate his support even when they haven't sought it and denounce his views even when they've never advocated anything close to those views -- but John Hagee is a perfectly acceptable figure whom mainstream GOP politicians are free to court without any consequences or media objections?
Here is just a small sampling of the belief system of this welcomed McCain supporter:
* All Muslims are programmed to kill and we can thus never negotiate with any of them. From an NPR interview Hagee gave to Terry Gross in 2006:
TG: If you use the Bible as the basis for policy, is there any room for compromise? And if you use the bible as the basis for policy, should Muslims use the Koran as the basis for their policy, and then again, what possible basis is there for compromise at that point?
JH: There is really no room for compromise between radical Islam --
TG: I'm not talking about radical Islam. I'm just talking about Islam in general.
JH: Well Islam in general -- those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews.
* God caused Hurricane Katrina to wipe out New Orleans because it had a gay pride parade the week before and was filled with sexual sin. From the same interview:
JH: All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.
The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.
So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
* The End Times -- Rapture -- is imminent and the U.S. Government must do what it can to hasten it, which at minimum requires: (a) a war with Iran and (b) undying, absolute support for a unified Israel, including all Occupied Territories (hence, Joe Lieberman's love affair with them). From Christian Palestinian Daoud Kuttab in The New York Times (h/t PZ Meyers):
A small minority of evangelical Christians have entered the Middle East political arena with some of the most un-Christian statements I have ever heard. . . . [Rev.] Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon (which will mean the death of most Jews, in his eyes) and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West.
Hagee believes that "the president's support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state," which "will play a pivotal role in the second coming." These views are not unrelated to Hagee's support for McCain. Quite the contrary; Hagee cited McCain's so-called "pro-Israel views," his belligerence towards Iran, and his social conservatism as reasons for the endorsement. And in critical contrast to Obama and Farrakhan, McCain actually seems to share some of Hagee's more twisted views, as evidenced by McCain's joyful singing about dropping bombs on Iran.
The GOP has long been given a pass on courting the most warped and twisted religious figures around. George Bush spoke regularly with Pat Robertson -- never once forced to "denounce" or "reject" him. In 2006, Rev. Hagee had a private meeting with uber-White House neocon (and convicted criminal) Elliot Abrams, who just happens to run Middle East policy in the Bush administration, and afterwards, Hagee gushed that he and Abrams (like he and Lieberman) shared similar views towards the Middle East: "we felt we were on the right track."
Watching the media's treatment of Farrakhan and Hagee, is it possible to imagine a more transparent, and grotesque, double standard? In the framework of the Russert-led establishment press, white evangelical Christians are, by definition, entitled to great respect no matter how radical, extreme and hateful their professed views are. These are, after all, religious Christians -- People of Faith -- and, as such, it is wrong, even bigoted, to suggest that they should be repudiated. There is nothing ever radical, hateful or dangerous about the views of white evangelical Christians like Hagee.
Thus, white evangelical Ministers are free to advocate American wars based on Biblical mandates, rant hatefully against Islam, and argue that natural disasters occur because God hates gay people. They are still fit for good company, an important and cherished part of our mainstream American political system. The entire GOP establishment is permitted actively to lavish them with praise and court their support without the slightest backlash or controversy. Both George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent formal greetings to the 2006 gathering of Hagee's group.
By contrast, black Muslim ministers like Farrakhan, or even black Christian ministers like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are held with deep suspicion, even contempt. McCain is free to hug and praise the Rev. Hagees of the world, but Obama is required to prove over and over and over and over that he does not share the more extreme views of black Ministers.
How come Tim Russert -- in all the times he sits and chats with Lieberman, McCain and various high Bush officials -- never reads all of the inflammatory, disgusting, crazed "Rapture-is-Coming/ All-Jews-will-Burn/ Kill-All-Muslims/ Hurricanes-are-Punishment-against-Gays" pronouncements from John Hagee and James Dobson and Pat Robertson and demand that John McCain and George Bush and Joe Lieberman "denounce" those views and "reject" their support? What's the difference, exactly?
UPDATE: As emaydon recalls in Comments, McCain supporter Rudy Giuliani, just a few months ago, stood on the same stage and gushed with gratitude over the endorsement by Rev. Pat Robertson of Giuliani's presidential bid.
That's the same Rev. Robertson who, among so many great things, said that Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment for giving up Gaza and the 9/11 attack was divine retribution against America -- America's fault -- for tolerating gays, feminists and the ACLU. But Giuliani was the moderate, respectable candidate who was free to accept Robertson's endorsement, and Russert and his friends never demanded that he "reject" it.
UPDATE II: Although cavorting with the likes of Pat Robertson and John Hagee is perfectly acceptable in Russert World, Russert also demanded, back in January, 2006, that Obama opine on various controversial remarks from the highly influential political philosopher Harry Belafonte (h/t JKP1000):
MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Belafonte went to Venezuela, as you well know, some time ago and met with the Hugo Chavez, leader of that country, and said some things that obviously were noted in this country and around the world. Let’s listen, and come back and talk about it.
(Videotape, January 8, 2006) . . .
MR. RUSSERT: Is it appropriate to call the President of the United States "the greatest terrorist in the world"?
Obama is required to denounce certain people with whom he has no connection while the likes of Bush, McCain, Lieberman and Giuliani are free to associate themselves openly with the most extremist elements around.
UPDATE III: Here is the McCain campaign website proudly promoting a video of Rev. Hagee's reverent introduction of McCain, while McCain and wife Cindy stood proudly by, during the candidate's "No Surrender Tour":
During his remarks, Rev. Hagee denounced those "in Congress who whine about the cost of the war"; said we can't withdraw from Iraq because "Israel will be in greater danger than ever before," pointed out that "Allah [is Ahmadinejad's] God -- not ours"; and raved that McCain "is the leader and the [other candidates] are followers." Rev. Hagee concluded: "Without victory, there is no survival." McCain then went over to him and warmly shook his hand.
UPDATE IV: Over at New Republic, Dayo Olopade collects a couple of additional Hagee quotes, including this one warning about the Harry Potter books:
As millions of people anticipate the release of the latest Harry Potter book and film, we're reminded once again of Satan's ongoing attempt to deceive and destroy. The whole purpose of the Potter books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult.
McCain in 2008! Let's ask Joe Lieberman what he thinks about the Pastor:
I begin by thanking your founder, Pastor John Hagee. I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses, he is an "Eesh Elo Kim," a man of God because those words fit him; and, like Moses he has become the leader of a mighty multitude in pursuit of and defense of Israel.
John McCain and Joe Lieberman -- Hagee reverence and all -- are our nation's Serious, principled, and moderate figures. Just ask Tim Russert, Fred Hiatt, Joe Klein, Gloria Borger, Chris Matthews, et al.
UPDATE V: The Catholic League's Bill Donohue, the media's anointed arbiter for all matters relating to what he claims is "anti-Catholic bigotry," is quite furious about McCain's warm embrace of Pastor Hagee:
McCAIN EMBRACES BIGOT
Catholic League president Bill Donohue addressed this today:
"There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it 'The Great Whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'anti-Christ,' and a 'false cult system' . . . .
"In Hagee's latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. 'The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,' he writes. . . . "Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee."
Whenever Bill Donohue attacks Democrats as being anti-Catholic -- during, for the instance, the grave matter of the Edwards campaign's hiring of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan as campaign bloggers -- Donohue was ubiquitous, treated with the utmost respect. Donohue's righteous protests over John McCain's embrace of such a stark, hateful anti-Catholic bigot merit at least as much attention as the Edwards Blogger Scandal, to put it mildly.
UPDATE VI: I interviewed The Catholic League's President, Bill Donohue, regarding the McCain/Hagee connection. The write-up on the interview is here; the podcast can be heard here.