McCain on Hagee

Initially, John McCain had an admirably straight-talking like on John Hagee -- he was proud to be supported by the anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, "pro-Israel" Christian leader who hopes to see the Middle East plunged into massive war that will result in the end of the world. Now he's getting flip-floppety:

"Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not.

"I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society."


That's some weak tea. When Byron Dorgan endorses Barack Obama, we take it for granted that Obama doesn't agree with Dorgan about every single issue out there. Similarly when Rudy Giuliani endorses McCain that doesn't mean they agree about everything. The issue here has to do with the role of extremists in public life. Barack Obama never sought support from Louis Farrakhan, never appeared on stage with Farrakhan, never pronounced himself proud to be backed by Farrakhan, but was nonetheless asked on national television to specifically disavow the man. People don't want to put a political coalition that includes Farrakhan in office.

McCain and his staff actively sought out Hagee's endorsement, he appeared and campaigned with Hagee, he said he was proud to be backed by Hagee. Hagee is, in short, part of McCain's political strategy. Now he tells us he doesn't agree with Hagee about everything. Well, which things? Are we supposed to believe that McCain's not into the bigotry, or the foreign policy aimed at apocalypse, but just likes Hagee because of their shared opposition to gay marriage? Is McCain going to be courting Osama bin Laden's endorsement? It's reminiscent of McCain's on-again, off-again quest for the support of "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. McCain's trying to wink with one eye to a segment of the electorate, wink with his other eye at his fans in the media, and somehow maintain a reputation for straight talk throughout all this.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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