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.

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  1. 1
    Tina says:

    Can someone ask McCain how he can be both against big government and in favor of this $3 trillion experiment in Iraq?


  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    It’s based upon the same logic by which Republicans can claim to be the party of freedom and limited government while advocating the use of government to prevent abortions.

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