BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The pastor who was deep-sixed from McCain’s campaign in 2008 after a tape was found that had him bellowing about God sending Hitler to hunt the Jews so they would go to Palestine, is trying to creep back into this election cycle.
In 2008, Pastor John Hagee was a much sought after “get” for Republican Party presidential candidates. After a long courtship, Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, which was trying to gain some credibility with Religious Right leaders, finally nailed down the pastor’s endorsement.
Three months later, disaster struck.
A video, first posted at the Web site Talk to Action, had Hagee -- the Pastor of the San Antonio, Texas-based Cornerstone Church, the overseer of a multi-million dollar evangelical empire, and the founder of the Christian Zionist group, Christians United for Israel -- bellowing that God had sent Adolph Hitler to hunt the Jews, chase them from Europe, and drive them to Palestine.
When the dust settled, McCain tossed the pastor to the curb.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible,” McCain said in a statement. “I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”
Now, four years later, Hagee is aiming to once again insert himself into presidential politics by issuing a call for 40 days of prayer over the presidential election.
Hagee has a number of platforms from which he operates. In early July, People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported that he had launched Global Evangelism Television (GETV) “a new internet endeavor … which seems to be a one-stop destination for all your John Hagee Ministries-related needs. The website features live events along with music videos, short messages, looks behind the scenes, and current and archived sermons.”
One of Hagee’s recently produced videos is titled The Agenda to Destroy America, during which he “spent a half-hour talking directly to the camera about how Communists have succeeded in taking over America,” Right Wing Watch noted.
According to Charisma News, Hagee recently sent an e-mail to all Christians and people of faith in America:
“First, I want to express my profound appreciation to President Barak Obama for doing what all of the Republican candidates have not been able to do for months: he unified the Bible-believing church in America in one week over the issue of abortion.
“When the president ordered the Catholic Church to provide contraceptives to prevent the birth of new life, he hit a nerve in the heart of every true Catholic and evangelical.
“Being a politician, he will attempt to compromise his position until after the election and then release the full power of government to force the church to obey the state. Think about this! If he made this bold statement before the election, consider how brutal he will be if he is re-elected!
“I have said it before and I will say it again: the election on Nov. 6, 2012 for the office of president is the day of decision for America. Four more years of Obama will bring absolute socialism to America. Our children and grandchildren will never know the greatness of America that we have experienced.
“This must not happen! … I am asking the Christians of America to join us in 40 days of prayer for this presidential election. These 40 days of prayer will begin on Sept. 28, 2012. You can do it individually or in groups, but prayer is the most powerful force God has given us to bring our nation back to righteousness. I'll be saying more about this as the year progresses, but mark it on your calendar and start telling your family, friends, and church members now about the 40 days of prayer.”
Hagee was recently included on a list compiled by Foreign Policy of the 50 Republicans who have the greatest influence on the GOP’s foreign policy. The list included such folks as Sen. John McCain; Bill Kristol, editor of Weekly Standard; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, who heads up a group called Keep America Safe; Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas casino magnate and owner of the free daily newspaper in Israel, "Israel Hayom" or "Israel Today"; John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Dan Senor, the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and a Romney foreign policy advisor; Karl Rove, Bush’s brain and the founder of American Crossroads; Matt Drudge, creator and editor of Drudge Report.
According to Foreign Policy, Hagee’s Christians United for Israel is the “largest pro-Israel group in the U.S. … claim[ing] more than one million members and has done more than just about any other organization to make Israel a defining foreign-policy issue for evangelical Christians in the United States.”
Foreign Policy’s list notwithstanding, researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnick believes that Hagee’s power has declined over the past few years. In an email she told me that: “When CUFI was founded, its D.C. summit drew American Jewish leaders from across the spectrum, including Democratic politicians and organizations. As it has become clear that CUFI is about promoting rightwing politics, Jewish participation has become limited to leaders with a history of working with the Christian Right. CUFI’s most recent keynote speakers at the annual summit were Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann, neither popular with the American Jewish community. Beck spoke in 2011 following his departure from Fox network amid accusations of anti-Semitism and Bachmann spoke in July during the controversy over her conspiratorial claims that figures in the Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton’s aide, are working for the Muslim Brotherhood.”
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Hagee re-lived the founding days of CUFI. He proudly pointed out that “Today, we have more than 1.1 million members; we hold an average of 40 pro-Israel events in cities and towns across America every month; we meet in Washington every year to remind our elected officials that there are Christians who stand with Israel. We have been welcomed with open arms by the American Jewish community and successive Israeli governments (regardless of party).”
For several; years Hagee, a strong supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been advocating that the U.S. take a more muscular approach to the Middle East in general and Iran specifically.
Talk2Action’s co-founder Bruce Wilson recently pointed out that Hagee’s 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown, was “devoted to the premise of an inevitable and imminent military confrontation between America, Israel and the West, and militant Islam.” In a chapter titled “World War Three Has Begun,” Hagee wrote: "The new revelations shared in this chapter and the next make it clear; America is now engaged in a bloody battle with religious fanatics on a mission from their God to kill Christians and Jews. America is stumbling in the fog of political correctness, lacking the intellectual honesty to admit that radical Islam has every intention of conquering Western civilization.’"
According to Wilson, Hagee also “appears to blame the Holocaust on Jews themselves, writing, ‘How utterly repulsive, insulting and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing his blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the see of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.’"
Will Hagee’s electoral emergence have any effect the outcome in November?
Rachel Tabachnick pointed out that “Where Hagee and other Christian Zionist leaders still have clout is with Israeli politicians, some of whom have failed to recognize changing attitudes in the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, apparently believes Hagee’s claims that he represents tens of millions of American evangelicals (he doesn’t) and that they share Hagee’s enthusiasm for the next war (they don’t).”
“The reality is that Americans, including the Religious Right, are war weary. Consider the lack of enthusiasm or discussion of war at the Republican Convention in Tampa. This same war weariness permeates most of the Religious Right with results that are visible in changing activism and narratives, even in end times prophecy media. John Hagee, a tireless cheerleader for the next war, is becoming increasingly irrelevant, but some Israeli politicians have not yet figured that out.”
Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst with Americans United, told me in an email that “At this point, I think pastors like Hagee are trying to ensure that right-wing evangelicals show up on Election Day. There is still some residual fear that the base is not energized over Romney, or that his Mormonism may put some off. Because Romney isn’t the type of candidate to inspire much genuine enthusiasm among the Religious Right, the approach of Hagee and others has been almost exclusively anti-Obama, seeking to capitalize over fears of his alleged “socialism.”
Boston added: “It’s hard to say if Hagee will have an impact. He still has a following, but I think we all know that this race is going to boil down to a handful of swing states. If the results are close in those states, lots of groups will try to take the credit – no matter who wins.”