McCain Throws Hagee Under the Bus

Back in February of 2007, John McCain was proud to be developing relationships with far-right leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Richard Land, and John Hagee. In particular, McCain pursued Hagee—whose Armageddon-driven Middle East war advocacy seemed to mesh well with McCain’s neoconservative foreign policy ideas—and eventually scored his endorsement.

When the Catholic League pushed back against Hagee’s anti-Catholic reputation, McCain tried to distance himself from the pastor while still bragging about the endorsement. McCain further admitted it was a “mistake” to court Hagee, but insisted he was still “glad” about it. But while Hagee was making time with the Catholic League, more and more of the televangelist’s views were coming out: on Katrina, on the economy, on welfare, and so on.

McCain had apparently decided that his path to the Republican presidential nomination lay with people like Hagee or Rod Parsley, but perhaps he wasn’t prepared for the rough edges of these megachurch pastors compared to media-savvy D.C.-based activists. The last straw, it seems, was Hagee’s explanation that God had appointed Hitler in a prophetic role to “hunt” the Jews and spur the creation of Israel. CNN reported today:

“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well,” McCain said in a statement to CNN Thursday.

Within minutes, Hagee responded with a version of “You can’t fire me! I quit!”

Ever since I endorsed John McCain for president, people seeking to attack Senator McCain have combed my records for statements they can use for political gain.  They have had no qualms about grossly misrepresenting my position on issues most near and dear to my heart if it serves their political ambitions. 

I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues.  I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for President effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign. 

I hope that the Senator McCain will accept this withdrawal so that he may focus on the issues that are most important to America and the world.

McCain has been trying to have it both ways, walking a line between the far Right and the mainstream. While the candidate has apparently abandoned the uncouth Hagee—and is downplaying his association with firebrand Ohio televangelist Rod Parsley—there’s only so much of the Right he can slough off without alienating its leaders or its constituency. Unless they swallow their pride and count on his promises of a far-right Supreme Court.