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JOHN McCAIN

New York Magazine ran an entertaining profile last month, portions of which should give Democrats encouragement. E.g.:

That McCain’s political resurrection owed as much to the weakness of the Republican field-not to mention blind shithouse luck-as to his talent and grit makes it no less remarkable. Yet for all the hosannas being sung to him these days, and for all the waves of fear and trembling rippling through the Democratic masses, the truth is that McCain is a candidate of pronounced and glaring weaknesses. A candidate whose capacity to raise enough money to beat back the tidal wave of Democratic moola is seriously in doubt. A candidate unwilling or unable to animate the GOP base. A candidate whose operation has never recovered from the turmoil of last summer, still skeletal and ragtag and technologically antediluvian. (‘Fund-raising on the Web? You don’t say. You can raise money through those tubes?’) Whose cadre of confidantes contains so many lobbyists that the Straight Talk Express often has the vibe of a rolling K Street clubhouse. Whose awkward positioning issues-wise was captured brilliantly by Pat Buchanan: ‘The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re going to have a lot more wars.’ A candidate one senior moment-or one balky teleprompter-away from being transformed from a grizzled warrior into Grandpa Simpson.

. . . McCain has been unwavering in his commitment to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for an indeterminate period of time. And this stance puts him on the wrong side of the public on one of the two central issues on which the general election is likely to turn.

. . . McCain’s difficulties may be even more pronounced on the second pivotal issue: the economy. During the New Hampshire primary, McCain blurted out the domestic equal of his ‘100 years’ gaffe: ‘The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should; I’ve got Greenspan’s book,’ he said, though he later allowed that he had yet to crack its spine. . . .

Even the most loyal Republicans express concern about McCain’s economics gap. ‘He’s never been particularly fluent in or showed much intellectual interest toward economic matters,’ says Pete Wehner, who ran the Office of Strategic Initiatives in Bush’s White House. ‘Can he speak fluently or compellingly about them? We’ll soon see. But it would require him to lift his game.’

. . . ‘People don’t realize that he’s Bush II on economic policy,’ says Mike Podhorzer, the deputy political director of the AFL-CIO. ‘When we tell people in focus groups where he is on health care, Social Security, and the minimum wage, they are shocked. And they immediately say, ‘I have to reconsider what I think about him.’

☞ Of course, the press enjoys spending time with him, which is an asset not to be underestimated. If the press had been half as tough on Bush as it was on Gore, Gore’s margin of victory in 2000 would have been unstealable. Unequal press treatment can write history.

Speaking of which, did you catch Bill Press‘s column yesterday?

THE CANDIDATE AND THE PASTOR
By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

Imagine this: A preacher endorses a candidate for president. Then we learn the preacher has, for years and from the pulpit, made disgusting, inflammatory and un-American statements. Yet the mainstream media totally ignores the preacher’s remarks and never pressures the candidate to explain all the ugly things the preacher has said and done over the last 20 years.

Impossible scenario? That depends on whether your name is Barack Obama or John McCain – and whether the preacher’s name is Jeremiah Wright or John Hagee. Obama, of course, was held personally responsible by the media for everything Jeremiah Wright ever said, and forced to repudiate him. McCain, on the other hand, has been given a free ride by the media and never challenged to answer for Hagee’s comments – even though, in many ways, they are more outrageous than anything heard from Pastor Wright.

Hagee is founder and senior pastor of San Antonio’s 19,000-member Cornerstone Church. He’s also a leading televangelist, whose radio and television broadcasts are seen and heard in 99 million homes. On many occasions since he began his ministry in the 70s, Hagee has come under criticism for his controversial remarks on women, gays, Israel and Catholics.

Hagee shows no mercy for the Catholic Church. He has called it “the Great Whore” and “an apostate church,” and accused Catholicism of being nothing more than “a false cult system.” Hagee also blames the Catholic Church for the Holocaust, telling viewers in one telecast that Hitler learned his hatred for Jews from growing up as a Catholic. When launching his wholesale slaughter of Jews, according to Hagee, Hitler told his followers: “I’m not going to do anything in my lifetime that hasn’t been done by the Roman Church for the past 800 years. I’m only going to do it on a greater scale and more efficiently.”

On women, Hagee makes St. Paul, notorious for treating women like second-class citizens, look like a feminist. “Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher?” asks Hagee. “The answer is lipstick.” As if that’s not insulting enough, he continues: “Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? . . . You can negotiate with a terrorist.” Real cut-up, that John Hagee.

We all remember that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were condemned for asserting, the day after Sept. 11, that God had punished America for, among other “sins,” our tolerance of gays. Yet John Hagee made a similar claim five years later about Hurricane Katrina and nobody cared. Appearing on NPR’s “Fresh Air” on Sept. 18, 2006, Hagee said: “The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades.”

An incredulous host Terri Gross asked if he was really saying that God had flattened the entire city of New Orleans, because a gay pride parade was scheduled in the French Quarter. Yes, said Hagee, that’s exactly what I meant. “All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.”

Hagee is also founder of Christians United for Israel, which sounds innocuous enough until you realize that, like most evangelical Christians, he only supports Israel in order to trigger another war that would bring about the end of the world. As he himself told a July 19, 2006 CUFI event in Washington, D.C.: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West . . . a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.”

Now here’s what’s different about Obama/Wright and McCain/Hagee. John McCain actually sought out Hagee’s endorsement, said he was proud to receive it, and continues to brag about it.

My question is not: How could a Christian preacher say such ugly things? But rather: Why did the media pay so much attention to one preacher, and zero attention to the other?

Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show and author of a new book, “Trainwreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and Not a Moment Too Soon).” You can hear “The Bill Press Show” at his Web site: billpressshow.com. His email address is: bill@billpress.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

☞ I would have cracked in that P.O.W. camp in the first five and a half minutes, let alone five and a half years. We should all honor McCain’s service. But his votes in the Senate, decades later, have not helped average Americans or moved the country forward.

And the first two Bush terms were not so good that they warrant a third.

 

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