John McCain's "I care about poverty" tour

While the GOP nominee was expressing sorrow over Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, his friend John Hagee said the tragedy was God's punishment.

Published April 27, 2008 11:31PM (EDT)

I think it's terrific John McCain went on an "I care about poverty" tour last week, but let's remember he did it when everyone's attention was on the Democratic primary race. The timing was no accident: He was able to go through the motions of seeming compassionate without raising the ire of the part of the Republican base that blames poverty on the poor. I don't think McCain won a whole lot of votes in New Orleans; it doesn't take a lot of courage to denounce the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina almost three years later; even Bush does that. It does take a certain sort of courage – or is it merely gall? -- to pretend you're on the side of Katrina victims when you voted against a bill providing more aid. Gail Collins got it all down perfectly in Saturday's New York Times.

But I was struck by the fact that the same week McCain visited New Orleans, McCain's old buddy, bigot John Hagee, was back in the news, reiterating his statement that Katrina was God's punishment for New Orleans' tolerance of gay people, specifically for hosting a gay pride parade that was scheduled the week Katrina hit. But beyond Think Progress, few people noted the unfortunate convergence between McCain's visit and Hagee's remarks. So maybe it wasn't that unfortunate. McCain continues to bob and weave on the issue of Hagee, saying on ABC's "This Week" last Sunday that "it was probably a mistake" to have accepted the endorsement of Hagee, the conservative evangelical leader who has also called the Catholic church "the great whore," but that he was "glad" to have it. (For his part, Hagee claims McCain sought out his endorsement rather than merely accepting it.) Just more straight talk from McCain.

While the media can't get enough of Barack Obama's pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, few people are exploring the troubling inconsistencies of McCain's relationship with bigots like Hagee and other Christian right extremists. I talked about the double standard in my Current video blog this week. One update: Since we taped the video, Hagee retracted his comments about Katrina being God's punishment.

Note: I watched Bill Moyers' interview with Wright Friday night. I want to watch it again before I write about it. But if you saw it, use the comments to tell me what you thought.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections