The McCain/Hagee story picks up steam

Slowly, more media outlets are starting to cover the GOP candidate's embrace of one of the most hateful and influential extremists in America.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published February 29, 2008 8:03PM (EST)

(Updated below - Update II - Update III)

The McCain/Hagee story is growing, though still not as much as it ought to. My new friends from the Catholic League emailed earlier to advise that Bill Donohue was being interviewed for tonight's program of The Situation Room on CNN. Blogs at The Washington Post and ABC News today covered the growing scandal from the anti-Catholic bigotry perspective, with the latter actually featuring the unbelievably inflammatory You Clip -- found by Ann Althouse, which I posted yesterday and which is now being distributed by the Catholic League -- of a shirt-sleeved Pastor Hagee spewing the creepiest, most hateful bile imaginable about Catholicism ("This is the Great Whore of Revelation 17").

As The Post noted, Catholics United, a less reactionary group than the Catholic League, has now also denounced McCain's warm embrace of Hagee and demanded that he repudiate his endorsement. Thus far, it is Hagee's anti-Catholicism which is being featured -- largely because when Bill Donohue issues press releases, the media jumps to cover it. While that angle has substantial political ramifications -- Karl Rove identified the Catholic vote in 2004 as the most vital to the GOP's electoral successes -- the reality is that Hagee's hateful and twisted extremism extends far beyond that realm. In sum, John McCain has aligned himself with one of America's purest -- and most powerful -- haters, and that ought to be the story here.

On a related note, over at New Republic, Marty Peretz's assistant, Jamie Kirchick (also of Commentary Magazine), today has written a lengthy screed entitled "Glenn Greenwald's Selective Outrage," in which he agrees with my central point -- that "McCain's embrace of Hagee is far more troubling" than what Kirchick dishonestly describes as "Barack Obama's equivocations about Louis Farrakhan" -- but nonetheless argues that I possess "little credibility on the subject of deeming which individuals are fit for mainstream support" because, along with Andrew Sullivan, I was "the leader[] of [Ron] Paul's amen corner in the respectable liberal blogosphere" and that I never abandoned "the man [I] once championed" once he was allegedly proven by Kirchick to be a racist.

The whole rant is filled alternatively with total falsehoods and petty irrelevancies. Fortunately, the TNR commenters, more or less unanimously, do more than an adequate job of pointing out all of the obvious fallacies in what Kirchick wrote (and thus there's little need to do any of that here). As I made repeatedly clear, I never supported, endorsed or "championed" Ron Paul, but rather, pointed out that he was the only presidential candidate consistently forcing into our political discourse two issues that urgently require attention -- the rotted and destructive premises of America's growing imperialism and the fundamental abandonment of our constitutional framework. That would still be true -- and is still true -- no matter what Peretz sent Kirchick to dig up about Ron Paul. Eric Alterman has more this week on how Peretz/Kirchick functions.

Kirchick's angry, tangential rant does unintentionally illustrate the real point here. Neither presidential candidates nor anyone else should be held responsible for the views of those who support them, unless the candidate seeks out that support and/or expressly welcomes it. With regard to Pastor John Hagee, that is precisely what McCain has done -- repeatedly. He was introduced by Hagee at a South Carolina campaign event last year, an event proudly displayed on McCain's campaign website. McCain expressed how "honored" and "pleased" he was over Hagee's endorsement multiple times yesterday. And just this afternoon, McCain issued yet another pro-Hagee statement when asked about Hagee's repellent history:

I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy. I am not endorsing some of their positions. . . .

And I am very proud of the Pastor John Hagee's spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel. That does not mean that I support or endorse or agree with some of the things that Pastor John Hagee might have said or positions that he may have taken on other issues.

As has been noted many times, most recently today by Matt Yglesias, Hagee's so-called "commitment to Israel" actually means that he wants Israel united so that the Rapture can happen and all Jews, including Israelis, will be slaughtered and sent to hell. And the "spiritual leadership" which McCain heralds consists of calling the Catholic Church the "Mother Whore" and a "cult" and arguing that Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in the devastation of tens of thousands of lives, was God's punishment against New Orleans because it scheduled a gay pride parade that week.

The fact that McCain thinks he can get away with openly embracing one of the most influential and hateful bigots in the country is a reflection of the profound media double standard he knows favors and protects him. Just imagine if Obama had issued a statement similar to McCain's with regard to Farrakhan: "I am very proud of Minister Louis Farrakhan's spiritual leadership to thousands of people" and "don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. I'm still 'honored" to have his support."

As it is, Obama -- who never appeared on a stage with Farrakhan or sought or praised his support -- was attacked by the Jamie Kirchicks of the world even though he denounced Farrakhan's views and rejected his support. Yet here is McCain, refusing to denounce anything about Hagee, instead openly embracing him and expressing "honor" at receiving the endorsement, and there is . . . . almost nothing. For those in the media who sputtered on about the nonexistent Obama/Farrakhan matter -- and even for those who didn't -- how can you possibly justify not covering all of the aspects of this odious McCain/Hagee association?

UPDATE: I really want the focus here to be on McCain/Hagee and not Jamie Kirchick's irrelevant sideshow. Nonetheless, I just can't resist noting (even though I honestly tried) the supreme irony that the person who has anointed himself the arbiter of excessive racist associations is the same person who is the assistant to Marty Peretz -- this Marty Peretz, and this one, and this one.

Kirchick's boss and mentor is to Arabs what John Hagee is to Catholics, Jews, Muslims and gays. But since John McCain is running for President and Marty Peretz, well, isn't, what matters here is McCain's active association with someone of that strain.

UPDATE II: It's still building -- slowly. From the first paragraph of the account by CBS News (h/t sysprog): "As criticism of John McCain mounts because of megachurch pastor John Hagee's endorsement of his candidacy, McCain is on the defensive."

While that article focused almost exclusively on the anti-Catholic angle, CBS News' Brian Montopoli notes, in a separate piece, that the Hagee scandal is much broader than that:

But what Hagee believes could turn out to be a problem for McCain, if the reaction over the past few days is any indication. . . .

And there are, it turns out, a fair share of "other issues" to worry about. Bloggers such as Salon's Glenn Greenwald have been pouring through Hagee's record and uncovering controversial statements on a whole range of issues.

He goes on to cite as examples the "Katrina-is-God's-punishment" claim, the "all-Muslims-want-to-kill-us" view, and the "God-wants-us-to-attack-Iran" argument (long superbly detailed by TAP's Sarah Posner). CBS's Montopoli notes the key issue here:

All of this has critics wondering: Why has Barack Obama been asked to repudiate the backing of Louis Farrakhan when McCain has thus far not faced similar pressures?

Posner has compiled much more here. And, according to Mad Dogs in comments, he just watched the story broadcast on CNN:

Here's the graphic CNN's Situation Room is using during the report:



John McCain has put his arms around one of the most radical and vile extremists in America. He has praised him, shared a stage with him, sought out his endorsement and expressed "honor" at receiving it, and has denounced not a word of anything he said. More articles and segments like these -- many more -- ought to be forthcoming.

UPDATE III: Last night, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric broadcast a relatively decent report on this matter, from Jeff Greenfield, featuring the Hagee YouTube clip and the Katrina/gays commentary:

The Associated Press is also now reporting on the story, noting that "John McCain is refusing to renounce the endorsement of a prominent Texas televangelist who Democrats say peddles anti-Catholic and other intolerant speech." And it's good to see the DNC shrewdly involving itself in this:

Democrats quoted Hagee as saying the Catholic Church conspired with Nazis against the Jews and that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin, and they recited his demeaning comments about women and flip remarks about slavery.

"Hagee's hate speech has no place in public discourse, and McCain's embrace of this figure raises serious questions about John McCain's character and his willingness to do anything to win," said Tom McMahon, executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

Finally, conservative (and Catholic) law professor Stephen Bainbridge argues that the protests over McCain/Hagee don't go far enough, and concludes: "this is even worse than McCain's about face on Bob Jones University. It's extremely disappointing."

Glenn Greenwald

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