I think it’s telling that the Tim Russerts of the world seem far more preoccupied with the supposed extremism of Barack Obama’s pastor than with the very real spread of far-right extremism among supposed mainstream Republicans — reflected, as Glenn Greenwald adroitly suggests, in the embrace of Pastor John Hagee by the pro-war wing of the Republican Party, most notably John McCain, the GOP’s designated presidential nominee.
Just how far out on the fringe is Hagee? He’s so deeply enmeshed in the Apocalypse Now! contingent that even other right-wing xenophobes are calling him out — specifically, Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who earlier today blasted McCain for embracing Hagee’s endorsement (though as we’ll see, we may have the liberal blogosphere to thank for this):
"Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee," Donohue said.
McCain said he was "very honored" to receive this endorsement and, when asked about some of Hagee’s more twisted views, responded: "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support."
Hagee, you’ll recall, is the Apocalyptic preacher with high-level connections — which included a keynote appearance before last year’s AIPAC conference — with a fondness for wanting Armageddon to take place in Israel:
Hagee covers much of his eagerness to promote Jews as apocalyptic martyrs with unusually strong preachments regarding the place that Jews enjoy in the holy order of things — at one point, he even taught that Jews enjoyed special dispensation from God that relieved them of the need to believe in Jesus as the Savior in order to reach heaven (though he now disavows such teaching). His purpose in proposing aggressive military action in the Middle East, though, is his belief that it will bring about the End of Days …
Bruce Wilson at Talk2Action and Sarah Posner at Alternet both explored this in some detail awhile back. And the indispensable Max Blumenthal attended last summer’s Christians United for Israel confab featuring Hagee and provided a video report that’s both unsettling and amusing.
But it isn’t just Hagee. Ezra Klein has the goods on how far and widely McCain is spreading the electoral love to various other players in the far religious right. McCain has also campaigned with an anti-gay "Patriot" pastor who has declared among other things, that hate-crimes legislation is a “deceptive ploy of [the] liberal, homosexual agenda"; that we should prosecute adulters as criminals; that Planned Parenthood is comparable to the Nazis; and who addressed a "War on Christians" conference with the admonition: “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!”
Donohue, in his interview with Greenwald, is in fact exactly right:
"Hagee is far more powerful than Farrakhan is today. . . . Hagee is a major player. There’s no end to his money. He has an empire down there."
According to Donohue, Hagee has "made a lot of money off bashing the Catholic Church and blames Catholics for the Holocaust."
But let’s also be clear about Bill Donohue: He is not exactly the person to be throwing stones when it comes to bigotry. In fact, he has himself a long history of indulging anti-Semitism in the name of "conservative Catholicism," most notably in his ardent defense of Mel Gibson for his execrable The Passion of the Christ. And let’s not forget Donohue’s ugly role in attacking John Edwards’ campaign bloggers early last year as well. He is himself quite a piece of work.
In fact, as I and others noted at the time, while Donohue was overeager to sniff out supposed anti-Catholic extremism on the left, he was strangely silent on the anti-Catholic bigotry that people like Hagee were spewing.
It seems as though, for once, he actually heard that criticism and acted on it.
Would that Russert and the rest of the Village Idiots could be so inclined.