Saturday, March 1, 2008

McCain & Hagee: Still Together

The reaction to Sen. John McCain’s endorsement by Pastor John Hagee, one of the Religious Reich’s more repellent members, continues to build. Yesterday the senator declined to denounce and reject his support; in fact, he said that he was still pleased to have it.

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.

Glenn Greenwald puts the shoe on the other foot.

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?

There’s also another point that bears consideration. Sen. McCain and his scrambling attempts to get good with the far-right wing of his party have so far yielding few positive results. The flap over the story in the New York Times and his “inappropriate” relationship with a lobbyist has mostly died away and with it went the defense of Mr. McCain by the righties who knee-jerked their typical reaction to a Republican being attacked for possible wrong-doing. But he is still viewed with deep suspicion by most of the hard-core base of the party, and his embrace of Pastor Hagee and his refusal to do a full denounce-and-reject will not make him any more palatable to the Catholics who trend to the GOP, nor the Hispanics, who are largely Catholic and already on the edge of bolting from the Republicans thanks to the party’s stand on immigration. (Sen. McCain is still being scolded publicly for his moderate stance on that issue.)

What also comes into play is how the Democrats will deal with this story. Do they take advantage of it, and how? If they have any sense, they will step back and let the GOP circular firing squad open fire. Any sign of gleeful chortling from the Democrats will only serve to distract the GOP from their own fratricide, and the more they do that, the better it is for the Democrats.

In a way you have to feel a tad sorry for Sen. McCain. Here he is trying to get elected in the shadow of one of the worst presidencies in modern American history; certainly within living memory, and doing it by pretty much saying that he will continue the policies of that administration. He’s distrusted by many of his own party members, and in spite of his reputation as a “maverick,” he’s managed to embrace all the old tried and tired hypocrisies and demagogueries of the GOP. If he can’t even get his own party to unite behind him, how can he expect to win over the independents that are essential to winning the general election? So, yeah, in a way you have to feel a little sorry for him…but not to the point where you won’t do everything you possibly can within the boundaries of good and honest campaigning to ensure that he doesn’t win.