It seems as if the various candidates hoping to capture the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2008 are all but tripping over one another as they seek to win over the party’s right-wing base.
For weeks, Gov. Mitt Romney has been not-so-quietly making inroads with the Right, seemingly positioning for a showdown with Sen. Sam Brownback over which candidate can best represent the right-wing agenda as the campaign heats up.
Adding to the mix is Sen, John McCain, who had been persona non grata for the Religious Right since 2000 when he blasted the Bush campaign for “pandering to the outer reaches of American politics” and labeled Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance.”
McCain has since made up with Falwell and has even made overtures to James Dobson, after Dobson said he would not support him. In fact, McCain’s attempt to ingratiate himself to the GOP’s base has progressed to the point where he is openly bragging about it:
Sen. John McCain said Monday that he has tried to mend fences with conservative evangelicals in Texas and elsewhere as he seeks the Republican nomination for president.
“I’m very pleased with the relationship I have with many Christian conservatives, and I think many of them would consider me favorably,” Mr. McCain said Tuesday during a Dallas visit.
The Arizona Republican told The Dallas Morning News that he has “established a very good relationship” with the Rev. Jerry Falwell and has reached out to Richard Land, a one-time Criswell College professor who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In Texas, Mr. McCain said, he has met with San Antonio evangelist John Hagee to express a shared “commitment to the state of Israel.”
During the 2000 presidential race, Mr. McCain criticized Christian conservative leaders, costing him key support among one of the GOP’s most reliable voter groups. This time, he is taking care to cultivate support among Christian conservatives as he seeks the Republican nomination.
“They are a very important part of our party,” said Mr. McCain. He added, “There are other parts of our party that are important as well.”
This is exactly the opposite of what McCain said when he ran for president seven years ago:
I recognize and celebrate that our country is founded upon Judeo- Christian values, and I have pledged my life to defend America and all her values, the values that have made us the noblest experiment in history. But political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. The political tactics of division and slander are not our values, they are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country.
But in addition to the obvious hypocrisy of all of this, it should be asked just what Sen. McCain is doing meeting with John Hagee?”
In Hagee’s telling, Israel has no choice but to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without America’s help. The strike will provoke Russia — which wants Persian Gulf oil — to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army, as the world watches “with shock and awe,” he says, lending either a divine quality to the Bush administration phrase or a Bush-like quality to God’s wrath.
But Hagee doesn’t stop there. He adds that Ezekiel predicts fire “‘upon those who live in security in the coastlands.’” From this sentence he concludes that there will be judgment upon all who stood by while the Russian-led force invaded Israel, and issues a stark warning to the United States to intervene: “Could it be that America, who refuses to defend Israel from the Russian invasion, will experience nuclear warfare on our east and west coasts?” He says yes, citing Genesis 12:3, in which God said to Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.”
To fill the power vacuum left by God’s decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist — identified by Hagee as the head of the European Union — will rule “a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion” for three and a half years. (He adds that “one need only be a casual observer of current events to see that all three of these things are coming into reality.”) The “demonic world leader” will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains — and presumably any nonbelievers — into a “lake of fire burning with brimstone,” thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign.
Hagee and McCain apparently share a “commitment to the state of Israel” which is all well and good except for the fact that Hagee’s “commitment” is based entirely on his desire to bring about Armageddon and the subsequent return of Jesus Christ by launching a military strike on Iran.