In 2008, megachurch pastor John Hagee endorsed the presidential bid of GOP nominee John McCain. Shortly thereafter, a firestorm broke out due to Hagee's views about Catholics. At one point, Hagee wrote that Catholicism was "a godless theology of hate" which during the Nazi's reign, promoted "a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews." Within days, McCain issued two statements distancing himself from Hagee, saying, "I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics."
Fast forward to 2011.
Last week, likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, Gov. Tim Pawlenty made news by telling the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer that he would support the reinstatement of the recently repealed policy which required gays in the military to conceal their sexual orientation. On his Focal Point program, Fischer asked Pawlenty, "If you become president in 2012, will you work to reinstate the prohibition on open homosexual service in the military, would you sign such a prohibition if it got to your desk?" Pawlenty replied (in italics),
Bryan, I have been a public and repeat supporter of maintaining ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell…and I would support reinstating it as well.
In 2011, the candidates are different and the issues are different. However, should Mr. Pawlenty become the GOP nominee, he may find himself in a situation similar to Sen, McCain due to the venue - a friendly appearance on Fischer's radio show - where Pawlenty waxed presidential. Call it the Hagee problem.
This is the same Bryan Fischer who recently wrote (italics),
Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it's time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.
Campaign 2008 was filled with noise about both candidates and their past alliances and associations. President Obama was dogged by associations to former Vietnam War era bomber, William Ayers, and various other shady characters. On the other side, slowly but surely, McCain had to answer for Rev. Hagee's outside-the-mainstream views. The scrutiny, fair or not, was withering. Eventually, reporters highlighted Hagee's embarrassing views on Hurricane Katrina, African-Americans, gays and women leading to a McCain retreat. The controversy dragged on for months until McCain explicitly rejected Hagee's endorsement, saying Hagee's views on the Holocaust were "deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them."
I suspect little has changed since 2008 and in 2012, associations will again matter. Like Rev. Hagee, Mr. Fischer provides a treasure trove of material. Anyone endorsed by Mr. Fischer or who appears on his show in a friendly manner, such as Mr. Pawlenty, should expect to be asked about Mr. Fischer's curious view of the Holocaust as well as other remarks relating to Muslims, Latinos and gays.
Recently, Christianity Today, hardly a left-leaning source, listed a few of Mr. Fischer's more outrageous positions. About Muslims, Fischer said, "The massive inbreeding in Muslim culture may well have done virtually irreversible damage to the Muslim gene pool, including extensive damage to its intelligence, sanity, and health." Fischer believes that building new mosques should not be permitted, and that American Muslims should be deported "where they can live in a culture which shares their values."
Regarding Latinos, Fischer suggested that a path toward citizenship would be best offered to illegal protestant Latinos versus Latino Catholics. According to Fischer, Catholic Latinos are not pro-family enough because they have a high rate of pregnancies out-of-wedlock and they are not sufficiently anti-gay.
Speaking of gays, he would re-criminalize homosexuality and, as noted above, believes German homosexuals were responsible for "six million dead Jews." Mr. Fischer presented his views on gays and Nazis as an attack on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Pawlenty's opponents could easily assert that agreement with Fischer on policy suggests that he also shares Fischer's rationale. Fair or not, if John McCain's experience is instructive, the controversy generated by opponents could follow Pawlenty for months.
To any candidate for president, the chance to reach a large evangelical audience must seem irresistible. In 2008, McCain courted Rev. Hagee's endorsement as a way to shore up support on the religious right. In 2012, GOP candidates will have the same impulse. However, the Hagee endorsement backfired for McCain and pandering to the edge of the religious right may have the same result in 2012.
Note: I wrote Governor Pawlenty for comment via his website but did not get a reply.
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