McCain’s Real Gaffe: Embracing Christian Reactionaries

At the risk of flogging my own expired Seabiscuit of this election cycle, I continue to be disappointed by the insidious role faith plays in American politics. How is it that in a presidential contest that will soon feature two … Read More

By / March 20, 2008

At the risk of flogging my own expired Seabiscuit of this election cycle, I continue to be disappointed by the insidious role faith plays in American politics. How is it that in a presidential contest that will soon feature two secularists — if not two closet atheists — both have managed to be brought low by their entanglements with backwater religious hucksters? My shelf groans under the weight of bestselling polemics and tracts which tell me the country should be well beyond this sorry point. Our current age of unreason is really an age of dissimulation, where rationalists who know better pretend not to do and true believers who might appreciate candor never get the chance to do.

I've given my brief against Barack Obama's unfortunate and insufficiently explained affiliation with Jeremiah Wright, but I suppose the "best" that can be said for the presumptive Democratic nominee is that his Republican counterpart has neatly canceled him out on the matter of dubious metaphysics.

Daniel Koffler has done an admirable job of highlighting John McCain's embrace of Rev. John Hagee, a man who blames anti-Semitism on the Jews' "disobedience" from their "covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God;" who supports Israel because it's Jesus' heralded return depot; who calls Roman Catholicism "a false cult system" (I admit I'm rather in sympathy with him here) but also the "great whore" (if only); and who cites homosexuality as the inspiration of the flood that wiped out New Orleans. (Buggery used to cause earthquakes, so this leads me to suspect the gay community is a veritable Captain Planet of elemental disaster.)

You would think that were enough for McCain to endear himself to the evangelical right, which is neither as unified nor as partisan as years of tendentious poll-taking and Rove-making have led us to understand. Now comes word, courtesy of David Corn at Mother Jones, that McCain's new "spiritual guide" is another chiliastic sociopath called Rev. Rod Parsley, whose name reminds me both of a Price Is Right announcer and a foil for Bertie Wooster.

Here is what the good reverend says in his book Silent No More, itself titled like a memoir that might have been written by one of the fey wizards of Hurricane Katrina:

The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.

In point of fact, the American navy, whose history McCain is well versed in, was created to destroy Islamic slavery in the Barbary Coast, whereas the parturition of the country resulted from a famous quarrel with a fellow member of "Christendom." And:

It was to defeat Islam, among other dreams, that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492…Columbus dreamed of defeating the armies of Islam with the armies of Europe made mighty by the wealth of the New World. It was this dream that, in part, began America.

If you click on the Boggle button of fun but parochial revisionism, this almost sounds like Howard Zinn on a sluggish day.

But will any of it get discussed and denounced, I wonder, in the general election season? My guess is it won't because when it comes to religion and vote-mongering, one nutter pastor acts like antimatter to another. A gentleman's agreement to not "go there" persists. Watch as McCain stays mums on Wright and lets his ideological hatchet-men do the talking for him; ditto Obama on Hagee and Parsley.

Instead, McCain has taken a buffeting for his repeated "gaffes" of fingering Iran as a backer of Al Qaeda and Sunni extremist groups operating in Iraq. Sunnis and Shia cooperating! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

It may come as news to Obama, Josh Marshall and the Huffington Post, but the (Shia) Alawite regime in Damascus has long aligned with Tehran to help fund Sunni Hamas. One would also think that after the Pentagon's latest disclosures of Saddam's prewar sponsorship for all recipes of global jihadism (Shia, Sunni, al dente), it's now common knowledge that violent pragmatism can and often does trump Islamic sectarianism in the Middle East. So an Iran-Al Qaeda nexus cannot be ruled out, a priori.

Nor should it be a posteriori because there is evidence of one. My fellow Billy Bragg-loving neocon weenie Eli Lake reported a year ago in the New York Sun that the leader of Iran's Quds Force was captured in Iraq, along with a bushel of Iranian intelligence documents:

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force — the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads — is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.

This was then substantiated last April by Maj. Gen. William Caldwell in testimony before Congress. Additionally, the 9/11 Commission concluded: "There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

So McCain gets rung up on false charges, while the real crime of his own collusion with batshit messianic zealots goes unnoticed. Yes, that sounds about right.

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