Juan Cole: John McCain runs for George Bush's third term





[Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com.]

The most important thing about the endorsements proffered to John McCain by George W. Bush and evangelist John Hagee last week was McCain's reaction to them. The freshly minted Republican nominee for president, who has had harsh words in the past for both Bush's policies and evangelical "agents of intolerance," meekly accepted their support. He knows he cannot win in November if the evangelicals and pro-war conservatives stay home. How far will McCain go in presenting himself as Son of Bush in order to energize his party's base? To date, based on his willingness to embrace the Bush agenda and to associate with religious extremists, the answer seems to be pretty far indeed.

When John McCain went to the White House last week, President Bush seemed to be offering him an out. Bush "welcomed" McCain as "the Republican nominee" in his official statement, but didn't initially use the word "endorse." It was McCain who leapt for the e-word. "Well, I'm very honored and humbled," said McCain, "to have the opportunity to receive the endorsement of the President of the United States, a man who I have great admiration, respect and affection [for]."

McCain's strategists, meanwhile, are said to be privately plotting how best to deploy the deeply unpopular Bush, perhaps by quietly sending him to host fundraisers deep inside red states where he would not risk alienating the general population from McCain. But McCain is hewing so faithfully to Bush's legacy he may need no help from the man himself in alienating the population.


Whereas in his 2000 presidential bid, the Arizona senator sharply criticized Bush for appearing at the anti-Catholic Bob Jones University, which at that time also still banned interracial dating, he is less vocal about such matters now. He is himself behaving as Bush did then. McCain once dismissed evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance." But last week the senator embraced Hagee's endorsement. Talk about an agent of intolerance! Hagee is like Pat Robertson on steroids.

The Democratic National Committee was quick to point out that Hagee said that Jews have faced persecution "right up to this very day" because they rejected Jesus and so demonstrated "disobedience and rebellion" toward Jehovah. He said that the difference between a woman with premenstrual syndrome and a terrorist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist. He said that Katrina was divine punishment on New Orleans for its sinfulness, and on gays for planning a parade there. He said that Roman Catholics were linked with Hitler "in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews," and called the Catholic Church "the Great Whore." He suggested a faux "slave auction" as a church fundraiser. He told a startled Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" that the Quran directs Muslims to kill Christians and Jews. (In fact the Quran recognizes Christians and Jews as "people of scripture" and only urges the early Muslims to fight back against the militant "infidels" or polytheists who were trying to wipe them out.)

McCain reacted warmly to Hagee's endorsement, saying, "I am very proud of Pastor John Hagee's spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel."...


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