Louis Farrakhan is the controversial, but influential, head of the Nation of Islam. Much has been made of his recent so-called "endorsement" of Barack Obama, in which he called him "the hope of the entire world." Farrakhan, of course, is considered by many to be anti-Semitic and is widely quoted as having called Judaism a "gutter" or "dirty" religion. Farrakhan has denied that he is anti-Semitic, saying that his remark was taken out of context. "I never referred to Judaism as a dirty religion," he says, "but clearly referred to the machinations of those who hide behind the shield of Judaism while using unjust political means to achieve their objectives."
In any event, he has made plenty of controversial remarks that have caused many people to conclude that he is racist and homophobic, as well as anti-Semitic. So even though Farrakhan never officially endorsed Obama, and even though Obama certainly never solicited Farrakhan's support, when asked about it in a debate, Obama both "renounced" and "rejected" Farrakhan's views and support. Although I'm sure that Obama was sincere in his remarks, it was, of course, important for him to make himself clear for another reason — he didn't want to alienate Jewish voters.
John Hagee is the controversial, but influential, televangelist who heads up a San Antonio megachurch. He has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and a "false cult system." John McCain sought out his endorsement and happily accepted it, saying that he was "very honored" and "very proud" of the endorsement. Hagee, like Farrakhan, denied that he was anti-Catholic, saying ""I have always had great love for Catholic people and great respect for the Catholic Church. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the mischaracterization of my views on Catholics."
But when everyone's favorite scold, Catholic League President Bill Donohue, called on McCain to reject the Hagee endorsement, much as Obama had rejected Farrakhan's support, saying that Hagee "has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church," McCain found himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Should he reject the Hagee endorsement in order to not offend Catholic voters, or should he accept the endorsement in order to court evangelical voters? I suspect his campaign may have gotten out the calculator in an attempt to decipher which position would be more politically advantageous.
As of this writing, McCain is attempting to have it both ways, refusing to reject the endorsement, but saying, "I think it's important to note that pastor John Hagee, who has supported and endorsed my candidacy, supports what I stand for and believe in. When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes…I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy. I am not endorsing some of their positions."
McCain's stance is puzzling to many, since just days earlier he had instantly denounced right-wing radio host Bill Cunningham who was, shall we say, less than respectful towards Barack Obama in his warm-up act for McCain. Why denounce one right-wing bigot and yet accept the endorsement of another right-wing bigot?
The whole episode underscores McCain's dilemma — how far is he willing to go to suck up to the right-wing conservative base of the GOP while not alienating the moderate middle? Personally, I think he'd do well to follow Obama's lead and reject the Hagee endorsement. He'd be sending an important message that he doesn't tolerate bigotry and hatred. He may lose some votes, but he'd gain a ton of respect.Powered by Sidelines