There’s also the endorsement by Pastor Jim Hagee that McCain sought — and then had to qualify due to Hagee’s anti-Catholicism. [He also believes] Jewish suffering — including the Holocaust — is God’s punishment for Jews deserting their role as chosen people, ie becoming secular and assimilated in 20th century Europe. There appears to be no footage of Hagee saying this bilge…

Crikey, May 20

There’s still no video of Pastor Jim Hagee outlining Hitler’s role as the “hunter” prophesied in the Old Testament who will do God’s work and chase the Jews back to Israel — but in the meantime the audio (posted here) has come into play, and it has now forced McCain to wholly repudiate the pastor he had glommed onto as a gateway into the Christian evangelist community. The story appears to be leading on all the media this evening, a classic mass media snowball from a small blog posting.

McCain hasn’t played this well — indeed it’s been a mirror-image of Obama’s disengagement-in-instalments from Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He started a couple of weeks back by distancing himself from Hagee’s ultra-protestant anti-Catholicism, a strain of belief which has more purchase in parts of the US — chiefly Appalachia — than many would suspect. Indeed it would have cost JFK the presidency if his daddy hadn’t bought West Virginia holus bolus.

Now that looks even worse, by omission.

“I condemn the Rev Hagee’s view that the Pope is Satan, but the bit about Hitler being God’s agent… well hey, it’s a theory.”

Of course the whole process is farcical. McCain is a weddings-and-funerals Christian and taking the endorsement of Hagee was simply a bit of obeisance to the Christian right — a sign that he would kiss the rod, a message that he would listen to them in the White House, acknowledge their power.

Now Hagee has withdrawn his endorsement in return, a sort of magical thinking by which you believe you can unpromise or unsay “I love you”, stating that since it has brought so much pain to McCain he’ll take it back so as to harm him no further. Which is, like, re-endorsing him dude. Nice touch.

Was a busy day for McCain on the culture wars front, as he also appeared on Ellen De Generes’s talk show, to get a polite yet firm grilling on the question of gay marriage. Ellen is to marry her partner, Aussie gal Portia de Rossi, one-time star of Sirens (retitled, for the US market, Hooters) and McCain parried her increasingly insistent rapier thrusts — about civil ceremonies being “like being told where to sit on a bus” — with the nerve that only a former fighter pilot can muster.

He can’t get on the wrong side of the Christians on this one, obviously — but a few stray high income GL voters going GOP for the tax cuts could, who knows, swing a state like, say, Colorado or New Mexico, both of which have had influxes of downshifting, treechanging etc, blue state gays and l-sbians.

So it was pretty much McCain’s whole campaign task in a single day — keep even the craziest, most repellent parts of the base onside, without frightening away the middle ground. How will it play to aforementioned base? We’ll find out in the three hours of hate — otherwise known as the FOX/CNN Headline evening schedule — tonight, but my guess is that Macca’s equivocation on the Ellen show will come in for sharper criticism than swapping endorsements with a pastor who’s so pro-Jewish he wants half of them to die in a nuclear holocaust, on the way to judgement day.

For in the last analysis, the two problem pastors, Wright and Hagee, are asymmetrical. Hagee’s views are vile, but it’s impossible to take his worldview seriously — it’s a product of the infantilised narcissism of American fundamentalism, readable only as symptom. Wright, on the other hand, talks in the language of God but not of literalism.

When he says God damn America, it’s an attack on what Americans have done to others and to other Americans in the past, and hence an argument that they could do otherwise in the future. Leaving aside the occasional foray into AIDS conspiracies, it’s rational — and thus threatens to burst the bubble of right wing American self-regard. Quite aside from actual bias, the news networks have more to work with, as there’s no definitive guide to where Wright’s beliefs stop and Obama’s start.

No Jewish voter thinking of pulling the lever for McCain is going to be really dissuaded by crazy Christians — after all Israel’s been feting them for years, as valued supporters. But white Democrats willing to no go Obama because of his crazy pastor…?

Their numbers, as the man said, are legion.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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