McCain, Hagee and the Media's Missing Question on War with Iran
In New Orleans as part of his so-called "Forgotten Places" tour, former Navy airman John McCain found himself evading incoming flak over the most recent comments of Pastor John Hagee. Coming just days after George Stephanolous lobbed him a Hagee softball, McCain faced questions over Hagee's assertions that "God's hand" was behind Hurricane Katrina because New Orleans was a "sinful city." But still absent from the media discussion about John McCain and his supporter the End-Times Pastor Hagee is the question of conflict with Iran. Given his own tough talk toward Tehran, does John McCain agree with Pastor John Hagee that war with Iran is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy?
While McCain has parried questions about Hagee's bigotry towards Catholic and gay Americans, he has yet to face scrutiny over his past association with the Texas Pastor. McCain, after all, didn't merely seek Hagee's endorsement. In 2007, he addressed Hagee's organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which just happens to believe the final biblical battle against the Anti-Christ will be fought by the United States - against Iran.
As I wrote back in May 2006 ("Bush, Iran and the Second Coming"), key figures in the radical religious right see Israel and end-of-times conflict with Iran as the fulfillment of biblical prophesy contained in the Book of Revelation.
But it is Hagee who is at the bleeding edge of a Christian Zionist movement seeking to accelerate the Second Coming of Christ and the final battle in Israel. Since the 1990's, Hagee and his group CUFI (Christians United for Israel) has tried without success to breed the "red heifer," the perfect calf that will signal the Second Coming." As Sarah Posner wrote in the American Prospect, "for Hagee's new project - agitating for war with Iran - his influence over Washington is less important than his influence over his audience." His book Jerusalem Countdown sold over 500,000 copies. And as Posner reported, Hagee is not alone:
Hagee calls pastors "the spiritual generals of America" an appropriate phrase given his reliance on them to rally their troops behind his message. The CUFI board of directors includes the Reverend Jerry Falwell, former Republican presidential candidate and religious right activist Gary Bauer, and George Morrison, pastor to the 8,000-member Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colorado, and chairman of the board of Promise Keepers. Rod Parsley, the Ohio televangelist who is rapidly becoming a major political figure in the Christian right, signed on as a regional director.
Just how much influence the likes of Hagee have over President Bush and his foreign policy team is open to debate. But as Max Blumenthal and Bill Moyers each reported last year, Pastor Hagee counts Washington's hardest of hard liners among his friends and CUFI allies. In October, Moyers described CUFI's annual summit in DC featuring Hagee's friends in high places:
At the recent annual CUFI summit in Washington, D.C., prominent politicians were present to pledge support for this growing movement, including Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Lieberman particularly sang Hagee's praise:
"He is a Ish Elokim, a man of God and those words really fit him...like Moses he's become a leader of a mighty multitude, even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the promised land."
CUFI considers its defining issue to be the growing challenge of radical Islam, particularly as relates to the security of Israel and the United States. CUFI is incresingly concerned by Iran and its potential nuclear threats. Hagee often alludes to Nazi Germany in order to underline what he believes to be the gravity of the situation:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are reliving history. It is 1938 all over again," Hagee explains in a 2007 speech. "Iran is Germany. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. And Ahmadinejad, just like Hitler, is talking about killing the Jews."
During the 2006 CUFI conference, Hagee made perhaps his clearest statement of Armageddon as American foreign policy:
"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."
In February, Senator McCain shared a San Antonio stage with Pastor Hagee and declared "All I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support." Since then, McCain offered a feeble apology to those offended by Hagee's comments about the Catholic Church being a "false cult system" and "the Great Whore." Today, he "categorically" rejected Hagee's slurs directed at New Orleans.
But on the subject of Hagee's agitating for conflict with Iran, the American media and John McCain alike have been silent. Just two weeks ago, Hagee announced a $6 million contribution to help fund the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a policy McCain claims to oppose. And while John McCain jokes about "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran," the press does little to learn more McCain's association with a group dedicated to doing just that.
John Hagee's anti-Catholic and anti-gay hatred should be enough for Americans to question John McCain's character and judgment. But is on the subject of Iran and his vision of Armageddon as foreign policy where Pastor Hagee is most dangerous. And from John McCain and the mainstream media - not a word.
For this and others questions the media won't ask Mr. Straight Talk, see: