Monday, June 09, 2008


One of the few remaining differences between John McCain and George W. Bush is in the area of religion -- Bush has basked in the embrace of evangelicals, while McCain's outreach in this election cycle has had an air of desperation and insincerity. And now he seems to have screwed up by offending the single most beloved evangelical preacher of all time, according to Doug Wead, a prominent Bush-connected evangelical:

McCain Campaign Declines to Meet with Billy Graham

...In another disturbing sign that Sen. John McCain has little interest in reaching out to his conservative base, including evangelical Christian voters, his campaign has declined an offer to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham.

...In recent weeks I have been involved with Brian Jacobs, a Fort Worth, Texas, minister and consultant to the Billy Graham Association, to broker a meeting between McCain and Graham. In May, we contacted the McCain campaign with an offer to arrange such a meeting....

The rejection of an offer to meet with Graham is yet another indication that the McCain campaign has made a deliberate, strategic decision to chart a new course for the GOP, a course without the sizeable evangelical Christian voting bloc serving as its base....

McCain's decision not to meet with Graham will likely provoke outrage....

McCain's campaign says it didn't reject a meeting and was trying to make other arrangements to see Graham, through his son, the anti-Muslim bigot Franklin Graham -- but Billy Graham's staff says it knows nothing about that effort.

Here's the thing: If you want to be president, especially if you're in the GOP, you can't blow off Billy Graham -- no president, Democratic or Republican, ever does. He's beloved and he's very old and in poor health. (UPDATE: The headlin to a Fox News piece by Brit Hume says it flatly: "Did John McCain Really Refuse to Meet With One Of the Most Beloved People on the Planet?" The subhead is: "Ticking Time Bomb?")


Then again, maybe McCain is just really incompetent at this I'll-have-my-people-call-your-people thing -- at least when it comes to evangelicals. According to Robert Novak, he's having similar problems with James Dobson:

...After McCain clinched the nomination, ... Dobson privately invited him to his Focus on the Family's headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. When members of the Family Policy Council gathered there May 9 for an annual conference, the word was spread that McCain's campaign staff had rebuffed Dobson's invitation.

It had not been that simple. The McCain campaign had responded that the senator would be in Denver May 2 and would be happy to see Dobson in his hotel suite for a visit not limited by time. Dobson declined and asked McCain to come to Colorado Springs. McCain then also declined....

Either McCain should kiss up to these people with gusto or he should be like The West Wing's Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick and say that his religious belief (or lack thereof) is nobody's damn business. Instead, he takes neither approach -- he's a toady, but he's an inept toady.


Incidentally, have you notice the dog that hasn't barked since the Jeremiah Wright tapes emerged? No one on the left actually seems to be attacking Obama for breaking with Wright -- which is odd, because if you listen to right-wingers, you'd assume all lefties are whack-job conspiracy-theorist America-haters, and you'd think that, in this dispute, we'd all be taking Wright's side.

On the other hand, quite a few right-leaners seem to think it was wrong for John McCain to break with John Hagee. Here's Doug Wead, at the end of that article about the botched meeting with Billy Graham, chastising McCain and his team:

...McCain adviser, Charlie Black, and campaign manager, Rick Davis, have a long, troubled history with the evangelical wing of the party.

The pair were said to be behind McCain's decision to throw televangelist John Hagee "under the bus" after audio recordings suggested Hagee believed Adolf Hitler was an agent of God. Though Hagee's views of "predestination" are mainstream among many Christian denominations and Hagee obviously never suggested support for Hitler or Nazis, McCain called Hagee "crazy." Only weeks before he denounced Hagee, McCain had publicly trumpeted the pastor’s endorsement.

Indeed, Hagee has been one of the greatest supporters of Israel and Jewish causes in the evangelical community.

McCain's hasty decision to discard Hagee was seen by many evangelicals, even those who are not fans of Hagee, as a betrayal....

Similar sentiments are echoed by evangelicals in this New York Times article.

And beyond that, joining Joe Lieberman in Hagee's defense is the original Democrat-bashing Democrat, former New York mayor Ed Koch:

Senator John McCain was wrong to reject the endorsement of Texas evangelist Rev. John Hagee....

Hagee was not praising Hitler the monster, he was simply offering the fundamentalist opinion that Hitler was used by God to cause the creation of a Jewish state to which the Jews of the world would return....

It has become fashionable among liberals, including Jews, to ridicule and denounce Hagee and other fundamentalists. I do not. I appreciate their support of the State of Israel and thank them for their enormous contributions to the Jewish state.

This is not to say that I agree with Rev. Hagee's view of Hitler or his other views. For example, I strongly disagree with Rev. Hagee's statement that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for homosexual sin in New Orleans. I also deplore his reference to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore," for which he has since apologized.

In this dangerous world, Christians and Jews must come together to fight or common enemies. I've been working for years to strengthen the Christian-Jewish alliance, and I intend to continue to do so.

So Koch says Hagee is wrong on Hitler, wrong on gays, and wrong on Catholics -- but he's right on Israel, so everything's okey-dokey. (He doesn't say whether Hagee is wrong to argue that a nuclear Armageddon involving Iran, Israel, Russia, and the United States is biblically necessary.)

Koch was a Democrat for Bush in 2004; he backed Hillary Clinton this year, but it's safe to say he'll be rejecting Barack Obama any minute now.

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