Tim Russert, in front of millions of Americans on Tuesday night, was quick to force Barack Obama to denounce Louis Farrakahn repeatedly until he worded it to Russert’s satisfaction (evidently the words "unacceptable and reprehensible" didn’t quite get the job done). Despite the fact that Obama never sought Farrakahn’s endorsement, Russert felt this line of questioning was appropriate given Farrakhan’s intolerant remarks about Jews in the past.
Okay, so let’s accept Russert’s argument that this is a fair line of inquiry. If that’s the case, then why isn’t he pressing John McCain about radical religious extremist uber-nut John Hagee?
Mr. McCain, who has been on a steady search for support among conservative and evangelical leaders who have long distrusted him, said he was “very honored’’ by Mr. Hagee’s endorsement. Asked about Mr. Hagee’s extensive writings on Armageddon and about what one questioner said was Mr. Hagee’s belief that the anti-Christ will be the head of the European Union, Mr. McCain responded that “all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support.’’
Notice the "been on a steady search" part. If Obama had actively sought Farrakhan’s endorsement, his campaign would be over. Watch the YouTube above. McCain is downright proud of this Hagee endorsement.
Hagee was, if you’ll remember, the guy who said that Hurricaine Katrina was God’s revenge for a gay pride parade. He thinks war with Iran is essential so as to bring about Armageddon (when you can say bye-bye to the Jews). But as Glenn Greenwald says, he’s a white Christian evangelical bigot, and therefore entitled to respect from the pundit class:
[W]hite evangelical Ministers are free to advocate American wars based on Biblical mandates, rant hatefully against Islam, and argue that natural disasters occur because God hates gay people. They are still fit for good company, an important and cherished part of our mainstream American political system. The entire GOP establishment is permitted actively to lavish them with praise and court their support without the slightest backlash or controversy. Both George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent formal greetings to the 2006 gathering of Hagee’s group.
By contrast, black Muslim ministers like Farrakhan, or even black Christian ministers like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are held with deep suspicion, even contempt. McCain is free to hug and praise the Rev. Hagees of the world, but Obama is required to prove over and over and over and over that he does not share the more extreme views of black Ministers.
How come Tim Russert — in all the times he sits and chats with Lieberman, McCain and various high Bush officials — never reads all of the inflammatory, disgusting, crazed "Rapture-is-Coming/ All-Jews-will-Burn/ Kill-All-Muslims/ Hurricanes-are-Punishment-against-Gays" pronouncements from John Hagee and James Dobson and Pat Robertson and demand that John McCain and George Bush and Joe Lieberman "denounce" those views and "reject" their support? What’s the difference, exactly?
Yes, Mr. Catholic League/Chocolate Jesus himself, who is (justifiably) miffed that Hagee refers to Catholics as "’The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ Glenn Greenwald interviewed him yesterday:
Donohue was particularly insistent that McCain’s behavior would severely harm his standing with Catholic voters — the group of voters which Karl Rove maintains is the key group for enabling the GOP to win: "This thing seems to be to be blowing up in his face. McCain has stepped in it big time."
It’s going to be hard for Russert to garner an audience for this quite as big as he did in a Presidential debate, so I’m going to make a suggestion here that I never thought I would…
(*sharp intake of breath*)
…he needs to have Bill Donohue on Meet the Press.
Fair is fair, right?
(And congratulations to Glenn Greenwald, who is getting kudos from both sides of the political spectrum on this. Big ups from the National Review.)