REVEREND HAGEE’S WAR
by Geoff Kelly - posted 7:39 am, March 27, 2008
AV columnist Bruce Fisher writes from DC:
The McCain campaign is reprising traditional Republican campaign techniques, but it’s also bringing a new face to American political discourse.
Meet the Reverend John Hagee.
Hagee is a large, loud man who regularly tells the people who attend his Texas mega-church that the Catholic faith is a “cult” and the Roman church a “whore,” that the “end times” are near, and that a pre-emptive military strike against Iran would not only be a good foreign policy move for America, but that it’s what America needs to do—because the Bible says so.
It’s pretty breathtaking stuff—and you can watch it for yourself and see a vintage Hagee performance on the perils of Catholicism.
It’s quite surprising that the mainstream media have given Barack Obama hell about Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s angry preachments, but neither Tim Russert, nor Chris Matthews, nor John McLaughlin, nor Pat Buchanan, nor any of other leading Catholic media chat-leaders have made much of Catholic-hating Reverend Hagee.
Maybe that’s because Hagee’s anti-Catholicism is less interesting than his fulminations about the need for the United States to get going quick on a new war, this one against Iran:
Only when you watch the clips yourself can you fully appreciate the systemic insanity of his views.
Hagee would be an anthropological or psychiatric case-study but for one event: on February 27, 2008, Reverend Hagee became a political reality when he endorsed the presidential candidacy of John McCain.
Courageous John becomes Hungry John
This is a time to contemplate just how hungry John McCain is to become president.
The pigs that politicians kiss typically get their smooches because their piggy love could go to the other candidate. The genuine mystery with Reverend John Hagee is why John McCain would not only accept but actively seek out the support of a man with such extraordinary views.
By the time McCain accepted Hagee’s endorsement, McCain had gained overwhelming support from Republican convention delegates. Moreover, no Democratic presidential candidate would ever seek the endorsement of Reverend Hagee, who believes that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God against the sinful residents of New Orleans.
McCain doesn’t need this weirdness. Yet he embraces it. Why? John McCain’s personal story is undeniably compelling—especially that part of the narrative that includes those years (I repeat: years) when he repeatedly proved his personal fortitude and his ethic of self-sacrifice. He made sure his comrades were freed from a brutal captivity before he himself was.
Even more: In the aftermath of war, he has maintained a self-effacing manner about it all. To this day, he still apologizes for having “confessed” war crimes under the duress of the torture his captors inflicted—and while he is surrounded by draft-dodging Chicken-hawks who clamor for war and clutch Tom Clancy novels as if they’re Scripture, John McCain courageously repudiates torture as anti-American.
McCain’s reticence about claiming hero status is akin to the campaign-killing reticence of John Kerry, a blooded veteran who killed in battle, but who was unwilling to speak much about his personal story, even when faced with a candidate who’d spent his own season of war snorting coke and chugging brews somewhere in the safety of the South.
McCain could have been, and almost was, a Democrat. He’s the co-author of the progressive McCain-Feingold campaign finance law—and he’s the senator who twice refused to support Bush tax-law changes, objecting that they skewed incentives and relief to high-income individuals and to corporations that send American jobs overseas.
Now, however, McCain’s candidacy is a reprise of the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004—and of Nixon 1968, Reagan 1980 and Bush 1988.
But not even they had Reverend John Hagee.
The Republican Strategy
Since becoming the Republican Party’s candidate, constituency-building for McCain has meant embracing the ethnocultural groups who can deliver the Red states. That means connecting with the Republican base of southern Caucasian Protestants whose mega-church leaders year after year get away with blatant violation of Internal Revenue Service regulations about political activity.
In the Blue states, the McCain campaign’s calculation is more ruthless. It is, sadly and simply, racial. The Catholic League ineffectively protested Reverend Hagee for precisely one news cycle and has not been heard from since. McCain’s campaign will target white Catholics who a generation ago were Reagan Democrats, and who might have been Hillary Clinton supporters, because they can be relied upon to cleave to the white candidate over Obama, whose candidacy, if he is the Democratic nominee, will be recast as one and the same as the voice of the angry Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Nixon used the fear-and divide campaign to go after white Northern Catholics and white Southern Protestants, and won. Reagan did it and won. Bush 41 did it and won. Bush 43 did it and won. McCain wants it bad, and has adopted the Republican fear-and-divide campaign to get it.
McCain has even adopted the most cynical tactic of all—the Bush-Cheney-Condoleeza-Rove tactic of equating al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden with a faraway country that has had nothing whatever to do with al-Qaeda.
McCain has actually said that Iran and al-Qaeda are working together, just as Bush distorted the facts in saying that Saddam Hussein was bin Laden’s ally.
But let us take the long view.
Perhaps McCain is positioning himself to be the foreign policy leader who did what the old anti-communist Richard Nixon did in China – which was to achieve the historic breakthrough that, many historians believe, nobody but a tough Cold Warrior could have achieved.
Then again, McCain’s embrace of the Invade Iran group could be just what it seems: war-mongering that presages an even more expensive military nightmare than Iraq has been.
That’s why every American voter should spend time watching the Hagee sermons. We don’t really know what John McCain thinks—but we know precisely what the Reverend John Hagee thinks. Reverend Hagee leaves no room for doubt.