A constant theme among a lot of liberal blogs even before the Rev. Wright media spectacle has been “why haven't the mainstream media paid attention to McCain's courting of hateful religious Right preachers?” McCain sought out Rev. John Hagee's endorsement to help counter his 2000 statement that powerful preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were "agents of intolerance." He sought out Rev. Rod Parsley's endorsement in order to help him win Ohio in the general election. Why has Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright been more newsworthy and controversial than McCain's relationship with the much more radical and hateful Hagee and Parsley?
On Technorati as of 4PM on March 18th, a search for "Obama and Wright" yields 8,129 results. A search for "McCain and Hagee" yields 1,274. A search for "McCain and Parsley" yields only 232 results. A Lexis-Nexis news search for "Obama and Wright" yielded 329 results for the previous two years, versus only 31 results for "McCain and Hagee" and 9 results for "McCain and Parsley" (some of which were in newspapers' Food sections...).
There are a few reasons. First, because Obama's relationship with Wright is personally close and much longer than McCain's relationship with either Hagee or Parsley. Secondly, because Reverend Wright comes off as a scary black man. The substance of Wright's controversial remarks may be less hateful than remarks by Hagee and Parsley, but the manner of delivery "jars" whites and brings up stereotypes of black nationalists and fears that Malcolm X will rise from the grave. Third, due to the religious Right's widespread influence, most members of the media are familiar with hateful statements coming from the likes of Falwell and Robertson, while they were surprised by the remarks and style of Rev. Wright, just as they were surprised by the poverty and resentment shown by Hurricane Katrina.
As for Hagee, from a quick scan of his Wikipedia entry we see that in his book Jersusalem Countdown, he wrote that Jews brought the Holocaust et al on themselves because of their “disobedience” to God. He said on NPR that New Orleans deserved to be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina because of its tolerance of gays. He also claimed on NPR that the faith of Islam is a military threat. Some Catholic groups (and this guy too) say he called the Catholic Church “the great whore” and “a false cult system”, although Hagee denies it.
Parsley is of a similar mold, but is even more anti-Muslim:
I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam... America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.With Hagee and Parsley's nuttiness firmly established, let's move on to the respective relationships.
Why is Obama close to Wright? Because of factors that have nothing to do with Wright's controversial political views. Obama joined Wright's church looking for a sense of community and seeking to identify with the people he represented in office. Hilzoy writes more on the connection between Obama and his church. Bottom line – it's not about politics, it's about community and identity.
Why is McCain close to Hagee and Parsley? Precisely because of their controversial political views. McCain sought out Hagee's endorsement for the political benefits, and McCain became close to Parsley in order to win Ohio in the general election. If McCain cozies up to hateful preachers purely because of their political power, shouldn't he be held accountable for the political views that give them that political power?
The sad thing is that McCain once possessed the courage to denounce hateful religious Right preachers like Hagee and Parsley. McCain made the decision to embrace these people not, I think, because he changed his mind about them, but because of his ambition to be President outweighs his moral sense.