So, which one of these videos does more damage? Which one should do more damage?
Andrew Sullivan thinks that the Hagee clip is “surely as damaging as anything Jeremiah Wright has said.”
I’m of two minds about this. Obviously, there is very little difference between what John Hagee has to say about America and what Jeremiah Wright has to say. Both of them believe that America is damned because it has failed to live up to the word of god. Wright was a little more unfortunate in that he actually said “God Damn America” but it is hardly any difference that Hagee’s belief that Katrina happened because New Orleans was set to host a gay pride parade. Hagee’s views on Catholicism are deliberately offensive to nearly a billion people and like Wright’s views of America they are grounded in a shameful episode in history. Wright’s anti-Americanism is motivated by the legacy of slavery and racism that has plagued this nation since its founding, whereas Hagee consistently talks about the Catholic church’s shameful record of dealing with the Nazis. Both Wright and Hagee dramatically overstate the case, but there is basis for those remarks in shameful parts of history that we would all rather forget. However, there is a difference in that Wright is speaking as an American who has volunteered to serve his country and has done genuinely good works in the community, whereas Hagee is speaking as an outsider with no other purpose than to denigrate Catholicism.
How responsible should John McCain and Barack Obama be for the comments of these radical religious leaders with whom they are associated? Its a tough question. On the one hand, Obama’s 20 year association with Wright clearly makes it an issue. Wright married Obama and his wife, baptized their children and was their pastor for two decades. There is a close and personal association between Obama and Wright that is just not there between McCain and Hagee. On the other hand, the relationship between Obama and Wright was not a political one. It was a man who went to church. Obama has repeatedly said that he did not hear Wright make such comments and it is very difficult to tell how frequent they were from the video clips that have surfaced. McCain explicitly sought out Hagee’s political endorsement, then appeared with him to accept it. To me, that puts Hagee’s views much more front and center in the campaign that Wright’s. McCain sought to associate himself with Hagee for political gain. That’s very different that what Obama did.
In the end, I suppose I wish that this would all go away. I don’t think that Obama shares Wright’s beliefs and I don’t think that McCain shares Hagee’s. However, if this is going to be a political issue, I don’t see why Hagee is not as bad a Wright. Obama associated himself spiritually with Wright. The clips of his sermons are not central to his theological message. McCain associated himself politically with Hagee. Hagee’s views stem directly from his faith. Indeed, in the clip of him describing the Catholic church as “a great whore” and “a false cult system” he is preaching an expressly theological message and tying it all back to his reading of the bible.
If we’re going to pay this much attention to Wright, doesn’t Hagee deserve a lot more scrutiny?