In a post Friday, I argued that Barack Obama’s statement on Jeremiah Wright would not have been enough to end the controversy if he were a Republican attending John Hagee’s church. Daniel Larison disagrees, saying “the mainstream media have shown relatively little interest in making much out of McCain’s acceptance of Hagee’s endorsement.” I guess it depends on what you define as “relatively little interest” — the Hagee endorsement seems to me to have gotten a fair amount of press, and predictably everyone who is worried about Hagee is downplaying Wright and vice versa.
I mentioned the Hagee connection with McCain and many other pols when Mike Huckabee was being accused (unfairly, I thought) of pandering to anti-Catholicism for attending Hagee’s church. Republicans seek Hagee’s endorsement because he is an interest group leader, not because they care about his theology. Barack Obama has a relationship with Jeremiah Wright as a pastor and personal spiritual adviser, which is very different. Obama is the one who has in effect endorsed Wright. Faith of My Fathers was not the title of a John Hagee sermon; Audacity of Hope is borrowed from Wright.
As I said earlier, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of Wright’s views are a reflection of Obama’s thinking. But it does make it worth asking the question. It reflects poorly on politically organized evangelicals that Hagee has become a major player among them, but there is much less evidence that Hagee is an influence on McCain in the same way that Wright has influenced Obama.
Larison argues that while Wright and Hagee are both kooks, it is only Hagee’s kookiness that is actually going to influence policy, which makes him more dangerous. But Hagee’s marginal views probably aren’t going to influence McCain. His relatively mainstream views — broad social conservatism and sympathy for Israel, regardless of whatever baggage he may bring to both positions personally — will. Hagee’s views are a legitimate campaign issue, but there is no evidence McCain opposes abortion or is pro-Israel because of Hagee’s end times theology. Wright’s views, in the event that Obama actually shares them, are disqualifying on their face.
An overwhelming majority of Americans would reject a presidential candidate whose thought process is influenced by “God damn America.” Americans disagree about abortion and Middle East policy. We shun those who dissent from the first view. We engage the second group politically, through persuasion or electoral competition, even if we think their views are horribly wrong. That’s how the system works, when it does.
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