John McCain finally dumps John Hagee.
“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.”
Good. What took so long?
I’ve written about John McCain and his relationship with John Hagee before. Last time I wondered if what he had to say was worse than what Jeremiah Wright had to say. But I don’t really have any doubts that this clip is far worse:
Going in and out of biblical verse, Hagee preached: “‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews. ‘From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’ If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”
He goes on: “Theodore Hertzel is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said ‘I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.’ So few went that Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust.
“Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. 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.”
To me, the single most disgusting part of that sermon is the following, when Hagee was talking about why the Holocaust happened:
“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.”
That is simply so far outside the mainstream of any possible definition of reasonable public discourse. Of course, he claims he didn’t say it, Jeremiah did. But I don’t care. It is beyond the pale to argue that God sent Hitler to murder millions of Jews because they weren’t moving Israel fast enough. I don’t know how any American politician could possibly want to be associated with this man.
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?