The last days of May will be remembered as the time of the long knives in John McCain’s camp, a period that saw the presumptive Republican candidate for president purge his crusade of its most overtly-unsettling adherents.
On Thursday, after it was revealed that televangelist John Hagee, a key McCain backer, had suggested that the Holocaust was God’s will, the senator from Arizona rejected the endorsement of the powerful and politically-connected Texas preacher that the Republican candidate has so assiduously pursued earlier in the year.
Now, one day later, McCain has put distance between himself and another fear-mongering fundamentalist: Ohio-based mega-churchman Rod Parsley, whose “ministry” has traded in the most brutal anti-Muslim stereotypes.
As with Hagee, Parsley was courted by McCain. Despite the fact that detailed reports of Parsley’s hate-filled sermonizing were broadly available, the senator went out of his way to appeal for and accept the pastor’s political blessing.
Never mind that Parsley had attacked Islam as an “anti-Christ religion” and described the Muslim prophet Muhammad as “the mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil.”
Never mind that the man who runs the World Harvest Church had claimed, without any historical grounding, that, “America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”
Never mind that, at a time when the United States is trying – without much success – to improve relations with Muslim countries, it might not be the best idea for the candidate of the current president’s party to enthusiastically embrace a religious extremist who appeared on television to declare: “I do not believe our nation can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam.”
McCain stood by Parsley’s side, at a point when he needed evangelical support to shore up his run for the Republican nomination and the presidency, and said that the pastor was “one of the truly great leaders of America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide.”
McCain thanked Parsley “for your leadership and your guidance…”
Now that more of the media is finally paying attention to the Arizona senator’s pastor problem, McCain has suddenly come to the conclusion that he can make this run without the preacher’s guidance.
So, like Hagee, Parsley now finds his endorsement in the McCain campaign’s “deleted items” file.
Of the more jarring pronouncements from his former “moral compass,” the senator now says: “I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America, and I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn’t endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement.”
But hold it: Didn’t John McCain appear on stage with Rod Parsley?
Didn’t John McCain thank Parsley for “your guidance”?
Didn’t John McCain refer to the pastor as “one of American’s truly great leaders”?
Doesn’t that sound like an endorsement by McCain of Parlsey that was every bit as warm as Parsley’s endorsement of McCain?
And, since we’re asking questions, here’s another one:
Now that John McCain has rejected the backing of John Hagee and Rod Parsley, will the Republican presidential candidate also declare that he does not want the votes of anyone who sips from the same ideological Kool-Aid as those men?
Will McCain say he does not want the support of anyone who embraces Hagee’s views regarding the Holocaust?
Will McCain say he does not want the support of anyone who share’s Rod Parsley’s overt hatred of Muslims and determination that the United States should attack Islam?
Or, will John McCain grab some favorable headlines from our non-skeptical media and then keep right on appealing for the support of the Hagee and Parsley flocks?
After all, McCain did not accept the endorsements of these two preachers because he wanted their votes. The Republican candidate coveted the votes of the many Americans who follow Hagee and Parsley. And, now, even as he conveniently rejects particular pastoral embraces, McCain has yet to say that he does not want to be elected as the candidate of voters who see the Holocaust as God’s will or who think the U.S. should – to quote Rod Parsley – “get off on warfare” with Islam.