Let’s face it: this is a VERY BAD YEAR for candidates’ relationships with men of the cloth who support them. Senator John McCain has rejected the support of a well-known pastor after it came out on an Internet website that the pastor had said Nazism was God’s will:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today rejected the endorsement of megachurch pastor and ardent Zionist John Hagee after learning of a sermon in which Hagee posited that Nazism was God’s will.
Hagee’s sermon was delivered in the late 1990s but a video of it began circulating widely this week on the Web on the site talk2action, which monitors the religious right. The sermon calls Hitler a “hunter,” a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, which quotes God saying he “will restore [the Jews] to the land I gave to their forefathers.”
Hagee is one of the country’s best-known evangelical Christian Zionists; he founded a pro-Israel alliance of Christian groups and has donated tens of millions from his Texas-based ministry to support humanitarian causes in Israel. He has said he is driven by the belief that the creation of the state of Israel, and the return of Jews to Palestine, are God’s will.
“A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter,” Hagee says in the sermon. “And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”
McCain issued a statement indicating he is today trying to put himself as far away from Hagee as quickly as humanly possible:
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said. “I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.
But news reports note that McCain had balked at rejecting Hagee’s support earlier, after it came out that Hagee had made inflammatory remarks about Catholicism and said Hurricane Katrina represented Divine retribution. At the same time, McCain has been blasting Democratic Senator Barack Obama for not totally distancing himself early on from Obama’s pastor’s inflammatory comments.
McCain tried to draw this distinction:
“I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright’s extreme views. But let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for twenty years,” McCain said in the statement. “I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.”
But as MSNBC’s First Read notes, the bottom line is this:
McCain renouncing Hagee’s endorsement comes almost three months after the Arizona senator received it. Hagee endorsed McCain on Feb. 27. Two days later, McCain issued a statement disagreeing with some of Hagee’s views, but he didn’t outright denounce the endorsement until today.
Why did McCain move today? First Read again:
Advisers acknowledge this endorsement was not properly vetted and that McCain was not aware of the range of controversial comments Hagee has made. The latest surfaced remarks were that “Hitler was a hunter” — regarding the Holocaust — and today advisers called those statement “heinous.” While they acknowledge a “bit of concern” that some evangelicals needed by McCain might be offended, the campaign felt this step was needed today.
McCain’s distinction about his pastor problem being different than Obama’s will satisfy those who already support him and Shaun and Rush will say it’s clear. But to many others — including independent voters — it’ll smell like Obama’s situation because of his delay in nixing Hagee’s support.
It shows a tin political ear in waiting so long (like Obama) and his distinction is “nuance” — the thing conservative radio and cable talk show hosts always snicker at and accuse the Democrats of employing…an attempt to avoid taking a hard position.
Here’s the Huffington Post article that generated the controversy.
But this is definitely not the year for religious figures linked to politicians.
Should Senator Joe Lieberman’s rabbi be nervous?
(Photo shows McCain and Hagee in happier times)