All of the major candidates – including Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Huckabee – have made plays for the religious vote by voicing positions on faith and seeking the endorsement of religious leaders. However, they are also discovering that mixing politics and religion is a risky business. This week, both McCain and Obama face some serious baggage that came with religious allies.
John McCain was delighted when he received the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee, a San Antonio pastor with a worldwide broadcast ministry. He had sought the endorsement and said that he was “very honored by Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement.”
However, Hagee has long been viewed as one of the most anti-Catholic and downright weird voices on the religious rights.
This video shows just how bizarre Hagee’s views are on the subject of Catholics, for example. Click here
He has called the Catholic church “The Great Whore” and “the anti-Christ” as well as a “false cult system.”
In 2006 Hagee called for an attack on Iran to fulfill religious predictions: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”
He also said that New Orleans gays caused Hurricane Katrina: ” … All of the city was punished because of the sin that happened there in that city.”
McCain later distanced himself from Hagee’s statements: “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.”
For the Hagee story, click here.
Of course, McCain is not alone. Obama was grilled recently at the Cleveland debate over his support from Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Obama was quick to reject the support, to his credit. Click here He has also been challenged about his connections to Rev. Jeremiah Wright who is viewed as equally extreme. All of the candidates have courted Sharpton, even as he deals with ongoing criminal investigations. Click here.
Of course, while Hillary Clinton attacked Obama over Farrakhan, she does not have any qualms about receiving support from Rev. Al Sharpton in past campaigns despite his own controversial background.
As noted in this column, the incorporation of religious themes and positions into presidential campaigns has only invited this type of problem. Candidates cannot cloak themselves in the support of religious leaders but then try to embrace only their votes and not their ideas.