McCain Latest Politician to Face Questions of Responding to Extremist Supporter

So far in this election cycle we’ve had three cases of politicians who have been faced with deciding how to react to the support of extremists. Ron Paul, Barack Obama, and now John McCain have faced this challenge, with only Obama responding properly.

Ron Paul refused to separate his campaign from extremist support, initially promoting a number of excuses as to why he should not denounce their support or return their contributions. While he never had much of a chance of receiving significant support, initially Paul did build a bizarre coalition of paeloconservatives, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, opponents of the war, and libertarians. As Paul’s ties to extremists groups were exposed he was ultimately condemned by many libertarians, leaving his support limited to racists, anti-Semites, the uninformed, and a handful of deluded libertarians.

In contrast, Barack Obama avoided any negative ramifications from the words of support from Lewis Farrakhan by making his objections to Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views clear and by denouncing and rejecting his support.

John McCain has received the endorsement of John Hagee. Sarah Posner provides a detailed description and Steve Benen summarizes his views:

Hagee, a very prominent figure in the evangelical community, is anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, and anti-gay. He believes Jews are responsible for bringing persecution upon themselves, he believes U.S. foreign policy should actively help bring about the Rapture, and he believes Americans’ sins led to Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.

McCain’s response was quite inadequate:

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.

I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society.

Joe Klein spells out the political dilemma for McCain:

This is an interesting political situation for McCain, who angered wingnuts by–honorably–dissing Cincinnati talk show host Bill Cunningham earlier this week. A McCain rejection of Hagee’s support would be seen as another sign of weakness by Rush and such. An acceptance of Hagee’s support would spell trouble for McCain with catholics and sane people everywhere. So, what’s it to be, Senator?

When Joe Klein speaks of “sane people everywhere” he is including his fellow members of the news media, who have often been McCain’s greatest boosters. This also includes many independents and moderate Republicans.

So far the story has received limited attention compared to the disputes between Clinton and Obama over who should answer the 3:00 am phone call but, as Glenn Greenwald has described, the story is slowly receiving coverage. There are many reasons to question McCain’s image as a straight talker and moderate. This story might help to put an end to both myths.

Clinton’s Ad Exposes Her Own Weaknesses


Barack Obama has released the above ad in response to Clinton’s reliance on fear in her recent ad. The text of the ad is:

It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone ringing in the White House. Something’s happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn’t the president be the one — the only one — who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start? Who understood the REAL threat to America was al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, not Iraq? Who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons around the globe? In a dangerous world, it’s judgment that matters.

This round of ads has been a victory for Obama on many levels. Obama gets another opportunity to remind voters that on the biggest foreign policy question of recent years he got it right and Clinton got it wrong. Obama also demonstrates his campaign’s rapid response ability. Imagine if John Kerry had released an ad contrasting his actual Vietnam record to George Bush’s record as soon as the Swift Boad Liars released their ad. In responding like this, Obama shows that he is prepared to take on the right wing attack machine in a general election campaign.

Clinton’s ads also helped highlight some of Clinton’s weaknesses beyond her poor judgment in supporting the Iraq war. As I noted yesterday, Clinton’s claims of experience are questionable. Clinton did not have security clearance, did not attend National Security Council meetings, and as First Lady had limited involvement in national security issues.

Clinton’s lack of experience, as well as how she is unprepared for a general election campaign, was further highlighted in a conference call yesterday. John Dickerson of Slate asked, “What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary’s career where she’s been tested by crisis?” There was awkward silence before they came up with a rather weak answer. As Matthew Yglesias commented:

Feinstein, the campaign’s foreign policy guy, is making the best of a bad situation here. But the more strictly political people walked into a debacle. How could they go forward with that ad without having a good answer to the question on hand? It’s inept in the extreme.