As a presidential candidate in 2000, then-Sen. John McCain has denounced prominent Evangelical leaders as “agents of intolerance” because voters are useful to the religious right movement. His message did not resonate with many Republican voters, and the Arizona Republican nomination fell short.
Eight years later, McCain decided to learn important lessons from his previous failures and form a willing partnership with social-right conservatives. In fact, the GOP senator welcomed Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement — at least for a while.
Shortly after, McCain was asked if he agreed with the Hajj post about radicalism or if the pastor believed the Holocaust was God’s plan, Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for the Pride marches in New Orleans, and that women “just make sense to be mothers and give birth.”
Unwilling to be associated with extremism, McCain felt he had no choice but to reject Hagee’s support and reject the pastor’s idea. This was in 2008. Republican politics has changed a lot in the last 15 years. For example, in 2018, Donald Trump invited Hagei, the founder of Christian United for Israel, to deliver the official blessing at the opening ceremony of the new US Embassy in Israel.
Earlier this morning, Hage made another famous political speech, calling for a kickoff event for Nikki Haley’s Republican presidential campaign. “Pastor Hagee, I want to be you when I grow up,” Haley said after the pastor left the stage and the GOP candidate stood at the microphone.
Of course, it is possible that the former ambassador and former governor are not familiar with Hagein’s writings. Perhaps Hali has forgotten that McCain condemns the pastor’s extremism. The new Republican presidential candidate can’t be bothered to learn Hagein’s sordid history.
It’s also possible that Haley and his team are aware of how controversial the pastor is, but they don’t care. In fact, given the state of GOP politics, it seems Hagee is the reason for this initiative, not despite his radicalism.
Hopefully Hali will create controversy, partly to influence the party’s religious base, partly to generate additional interest in his national candidacy and partly to offer an opportunity to celebrate the Republican candidate. the ability to generate anger from mainstream voices.
Of course, it’s possible that Haley will follow McCain’s lead, face questions about Hajj’s writings, and decide to call out the pastor’s extremism. But all things considered, it is unlikely.