Saturday, March 01, 2008

McCain's Unusual Strategy to Court the Catholic Vote

In an appeal to Catholic voters across the nation, John McCain flew down to San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday to publicly receive the endorsement of Evangelical mega-church pastor John Hagee. In addition to many other bigoted comments over the years, it turns out that Hagee has a particular soft spot for the "Great Whore," "apostate church," and "false cult system" that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Glenn Greenwald, at

One of this week's hysterical press scandals was that Minister Louis Farrakhan praised Barack Obama's candidacy even though Obama had previously denounced numerous Farrakhan remarks and the Obama campaign did nothing to seek out the Farrakhan praise. Nonetheless, Tim Russert demanded that Obama jump through multiple hoops to prove that he has no connection to -- and, in fact, "rejects" -- the ideas espoused by Farrakhan deemed to be radical and hateful.

Yesterday, though, the equally fringe, radical and hateful (at least) Rev. John Hagee -- a white evangelical who is the pastor of a sprawling "mega-church" in Texas -- enthusiastically endorsed John McCain. Did McCain have to jump through the same hoops which Russert and others set up for Obama and "denounce" Hagee's extremism and "reject" his support? No; quite the opposite. 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."

Enter Bill Donohoe, of the Catholic League, who issued a statement yesterday, entitled "McCain Embraces Bigot" (I guess it takes one to know one):

“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ To hear the bigot in his own words, click here. Note: he isn’t talking about the Buddhists.

“In Hagee’s latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. ‘The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,’ he writes. . . .

“Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee.”

John McCain responded:

“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.”
And, later in the day:
McCain was pressed on the issue Friday morning in Round Rock, Texas. Hagee "supports what I stand for and believe in," McCain said.

"When he endorses me, that does not mean that I endorse everything that he stands for and believes in," McCain said. "I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my campaign."

He added that he was "proud" of Hagee's spiritual leadership of his congregation at the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church.

The Democratic National Committee, via Executive Director Tom McMahon, then asked:
So which Hagee positions does John McCain endorse? His position that Hurricane Katrina was punishment from God because "New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that." Or his position that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06] Or his "slave sale" where he announced that participants should "make plans to come and go home with a slave." [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

"As a Catholic, I am personally offended by John McCain's embrace of such a divisive figure. I join many others in the Catholic community calling on Sen. McCain to immediately distance himself from Hagee and denounce his remarks," said DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon. "As an American, I'm also offended by Hagee's denigration of African Americans, Muslims, women, and LGBT Americans. Hagee's hate speech has no place in public discourse and McCain's embrace of this figure raises serious questions about John McCain's character and his willingness to do anything to win."
The Antichrist, by Lucas Cranach the Elder - 1521. The Pope portrayed as the Antichrist.

The group Catholics United also chimed in:
Catholics United has issued a letter to the John McCain campaign asking him to publicly distance himself from Pastor John Hagee's anti-Catholic rhetoric and reject his endorsement.

On Wednesday, Senator John McCain was “honored” to receive the endorsement of the Evangelical pastor John Hagee. Pastor Hagee is well known for his anti-Catholic rhetoric such as past suggestions that the Catholic Church gave Adolf Hitler inspiration and support for the Holocaust.
Later in the day, Donohoe discussed the issue further in an interview with Glenn Greenwald:
"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." Regarding the intense 2000 media controversy when then-Gov. George Bush spoke at Bob Jones University, Donohue said:
Why were they so exercised about Bob Jones? This is worse. . . . If someone said to me: who is the biggest anti-Catholic bigot in the evangelical community, I would say: hands down, John Hagee.

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." And Donohue further vowed:

He's not going to get away with this with the Catholic community. . . . We're going to get this out to the Catholic community and Catholic press around the country. . . . We're going to ride this out and see how far he wants to talk about this.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee was just disappointed that Hagee hadn't endorsed him:
I don't know how to speak for Pastor Hagee. He's a friend. I was shocked and disappointed by his decision, but you know what, he has one vote and I'm going to believe that there are a whole lot of people in Texas who will vote their own principles and conscience.
And how are some Evangelicals responding to their offended Catholic brothers and sisters? One blog had this to say:
[Hagee] regularly preaches that the Roman Catholics have caused much suffering in the world through the centuries. But who can rightly deny it? Look at the medieval history of Europe for instance, horrible slaughters of Jews and Protestants who would not bend the knee to the Roman Pope. And to this day, many Catholics think that only Catholics go to heaven, no Protestants allowed, so where do you suppose they got that idea?

And is Donohue protesting donations to McCain from gay Log Cabin Republicans? Is he protesting donations from gambling casinos, from liquor distributors, or from atheistic Catholic-haters? I dare say no, so Donohue should stop being so sensitive and self-righteous. But if he wants to not acknowledge the sometimes horrific behavior of the Roman Catholic church throughout church history, nor the many valid reasons that Protestants think Roman Catholicism is not New Testament Christianity, then Donohue will be one of the few who is that myopic to not see it, acknowledge it, and move on.

The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog covered the story: Catholic League doesn't (heart) McCain's cozying with Hagee. Here's the first readers' comment:

Pastor Hagee is totaly right about the Catholic Church..Hagee saying exactley what God said about this group.....In Revelations chapters 2 & 3 you will find that God says he hates this group of chanting, idle worshipping, with Mary and their Saints. Along with other Apostate religions, like the Binny Hinn's of this world and the Laodicean church age, New Age movement, The Morman and Jehovah Witness cults, pagans, etc.None of these groups are teaching the True word of God..Last chapter in Revelations not add too or take away from his (Gods) words...Period! Jesus is the only way and the only answer for Salvation from an eternal, Burning fire of Hell. There is no other way but one and it is through Jesus Chirst, the Son of God, who shed is blood on Calavry for man's sins...Hagee is telling the turth.

Nice, move Senator McCain. You've managed to piss off Catholics, who make up a sizable portion of your possible voter base; fueled ongoing tension between Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics; and made Obama's rejection and denunciation of Farrakhan look even stronger.

At one point, I was concerned about John McCain being the Republican candidate. But the more I watch this man in the primaries, the more I doubt his skills at running a presidential campaign. He ran out of money last summer and still has a hard time raising cash: $12 million last month, with virtually no competition in the race, compared to $30 million from Hillary Clinton and $50 million for Obama. He can't finish off Mike Huckabee. His supposed "straight-talk" often sounds like he simply hasn't thought about what he's saying - a major disadvantage in a presidential race. ("I don't really know much about the economy.") He continues tying himself to a president with a 20% approval rating, and to a war which 2/3 of Americans want to end. He doesn't seem to have learned anything from Hillary Clinton's failed attacks against Barack Obama and seems content to repeat her mistakes.

If Obama can win the nomination, I'm beginning to look forward to an extended campaign against John McCain. Who knows, Obama might even pick up some of the Catholic vote.

UPDATE: Here's video of some of Hagee's charming thoughts on Catholics:

Meanwhile, right-wing Evangelicals and Catholics battle it out over at Hot Air:
That’s the salient thing about these loud-mouthed, Hagee-hating Catholics: They are all over Hagee for his alleged anti-Catholicism, but it seems the main thing that comes through in your posts is a loathing for Hagee and fundamentalists.

Hagee is a brave and decent man: Sliming him hurts his detractors far more than it does Mr. Hagee.

sanantonian on March 1, 2008 at 1:56 AM

Hagee has called the Catholic Church ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ There is nothing “alleged” about his hatred of Catholics. Actually, he is quite open about his disgust and hatred toward Catholics.

There are plently of decent and rightous Protestant ministers who stand up for Israel and Christian values in this country but do not have contempt for Catholics, and work with us to achieve our common goals, and Hagee is not one of them!

irish_infidel on March 1, 2008 at 2:11 AM
The Catholics win that round.

UPDATE 2: Matthew Yglesias, Associate Editor of Atlantic Monthly:
Initially, John McCain had an admirably straight-talking like on John Hagee -- he was proud to be supported by the anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, "pro-Israel" Christian leader who hopes to see the Middle East plunged into massive war that will result in the end of the world. Now he's getting flip-floppety . . . .

The issue here has to do with the role of extremists in public life. Barack Obama never sought support from Louis Farrakhan, never appeared on stage with Farrakhan, never pronounced himself proud to be backed by Farrakhan, but was nonetheless asked on national television to specifically disavow the man. People don't want to put a political coalition that includes Farrakhan in office.

McCain and his staff actively sought out Hagee's endorsement, he appeared and campaigned with Hagee, he said he was proud to be backed by Hagee. Hagee is, in short, part of McCain's political strategy. Now he tells us he doesn't agree with Hagee about everything. Well, which things? Are we supposed to believe that McCain's not into the bigotry, or the foreign policy aimed at apocalypse, but just likes Hagee because of their shared opposition to gay marriage? Is McCain going to be courting Osama bin Laden's endorsement? It's reminiscent of McCain's on-again, off-again quest for the support of "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. McCain's trying to wink with one eye to a segment of the electorate, wink with his other eye at his fans in the media, and somehow maintain a reputation for straight talk throughout all this.


Jeff said...

Great post, William. Where was Donohue when Huckabee visited Hagee's church? I seem to recall that he said something, but it was a lot more muted.

The wheels on the Republican bus are coming off, coming off, coming off, the wheels on the Republican bus are coming off... yet those of us who cruise the Catholic blogosphere are constantly admonished that we MUST vote for the Republican candidate in this upcoming election. Nice work, Weigel & Neuhaus. Thanks a million. Good job.

I've lost a lot of respect for McCain here. He wouldn't go to Bob Jones U. back in 2000, and rightfully so, but now he's cozying up to these people while at the same time mewling that he regrets the lack of moral conviction he displayed over the confederate flag controversy. Come on, man....

By the way, I thought it was pretty bad form on Hillary's part to chime in on that Farrakhan question the other night, bringing up that lame comparison to the Independence Party in NY, or whatever the heck it was. Instead of trying to hang Farrakhan around his neck, she should have had the grace and class to stay silent in that instance.

cowboyangel said...


How do you think Donohoe's statement will play out in conservative Catholic circles? Will this story actually hurt McCain that much?

And who are Catholics United?

crystal said...

I think many more people would be creeped out be an endorsement by Farrakhan than an evangelical christian preacher, whether that's fair or not. Um ... you criticize the Catholic League when they are against something you like, and like them when they're against something you don't - the enemy of my enemy is my friend? :-)

Jeff said...

I've been trying to gauge the reaction out on the blogs, but I'm not seeing much yet. I don't think it will have much impact either way, though. The abortion issue seems to trump everything else.

I've heard of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF). It was a conservative lay apostolate started by H. Lyman Stebbins in the late sixties, and St Louis U. Professor James Hitchcock and his wife seem to be the dominant figures in it now, but this 'Catholics United' group looks different, and actually looks more like a progressive group, if you look at the background of the staff.

Jeff said...


Did you get the impression that William was heaping praise on Donohue and the Catholic league? I didn't get that impression. I don't think he meant it that way.

cowboyangel said...


I called Donohoe a bigot ("I guess it takes one to know one.")

I was simply reporting that he was very upset, which I find to be significant news: A well-known right-wing Catholic publicly criticizing the presumed Republican nominee and threatening to battle against him ("He's not going to get away with this with the Catholic community.")

It's interesting to me that both McCain and Huckabee would actively seek out this guy's endorsement. I mean they went TO him. Did they not consider what kind of reaction his endorsement might cause among Catholics? They're either not thinking very clearly about the matter, or they take the conservative Catholic vote for granted. But a more skilled politician would've contacted Donohoe first and said, "Hey, what's your reaction going to be if we seek Hagee's endorsement?"

This is amateur hour stuff for a presidential candidate.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, yeah, I'm surprised. I went traveling around Catholic blogs and didn't see much either. I don't think the story's going away that fast, however.

After I posted, I saw an article that referred to Catholics United as "more left leaning" than Catholic League. But I don't know what that means. Left of the Catholic League could still be on the right!

cowboyangel said...

Ah . . . I wrote "Good ol' Bill Donohoe." That was meant ironically. I've removed it. Once again, the internet proves incapable of conveying irony without the use of emtoicons.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, I forgot to respond to the other part of your first comment: By the way, I thought it was pretty bad form on Hillary's part to chime in on that Farrakhan question the other night, bringing up that lame comparison to the Independence Party in NY, or whatever the heck it was. Instead of trying to hang Farrakhan around his neck, she should have had the grace and class to stay silent in that instance.

You're expecting grace and class from the Clintons at this point?! They're losing. They're desperate.

Obama handled it well, I thought.

Meanwhile, the next day, Hillary refused to "reject" or "denounce" one of her bigoted supporters! See:
"A Double Standard on 'Reject and Denounce'"

Liam said...

Hagee is not only an anti-Catholic bigot, but his approach to the Middle East is absolutely terrifying.

"idle worshipping": now there's a great idea.

crystal said...

I don't visit any conservative catholic blogs but I visit the Insight Scoop, which is pretty conservative - they've had some anti-Obama posts but nothing I've noticed about McCain.

I know William isn't saying the Catholic League is ok - just teasing him (did I not add a smiley face!?)

Thomas Reese sj had a post at On Faith about how Catholics have been voting - Obama and the Catholic Vote

Garpu the Fork said...

yet those of us who cruise the Catholic blogosphere are constantly admonished that we MUST vote for the Republican candidate in this upcoming election. Nice work, Weigel & Neuhaus. Thanks a million. Good job.

Yeah no kidding. And it's only March. I don't know what it's going to be like in November.

Jeff said...

If the beast doesn't "devour" the Roman Church, it looks like Hagee will. Dude doesn't look like he passes up on too many leftovers.