Barack Obama is not the only presidential candidate with a pastor problem. Republican John McCain's endorsement by two controversial pastors and his subsequent rejection of them after some of their offensive remarks became public raise questions about why he was willing to associate his candidacy with religious extremists who traffic in anger and bigotry.
Struggling to make peace with the religious conservatives, who came out strongly for Mike Huckabee in the early GOP presidential primary contests, McCain stooped low to seek the endorsements of evangelical pastors Rod Parsley and John Hagee, who lead mega-churches in Ohio and Texas, respectively.
Parsley is well-known for his anti-Islam ravings. From his pulpit he has denounced Islam as a violent movement to conquer the world, called its prophet Mohammed a mouthpiece for spiritual evil and declared that America was founded to destroy Islam. Yet McCain described Parsley as "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, [and] a spiritual guide."
Hagee called Adolf Hitler "the hunter" God sent to drive the Jewish people to the land of Israel, crudely labeled the Catholic Church as "the great whore" and declared Hurricane Katrina God's punishment of homosexuals. When reports of the pastors' views surfaced in the national media in late May, well after he had cinched the GOP nomination, McCain rejected the endorsements and condemned the statements. But McCain has yet to explain why he sought and accepted their political blessing in the first place.
In his unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign, the Arizona senator branded the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and television preacher Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance." On the road to the White House in 2008, McCain underwent a conversion and embraced them, even agreeing to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University, which Falwell founded.
Referring to Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, McCain said he did not attend the church of either Hagee or Parsley for 20 years or describe them as his spiritual advisers. Obama first repudiated the incendiary statements of his former pastor, and later Wright himself, after they ignited a political furor just before the primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Both McCain and Obama have pleaded ignorance, saying they were unaware of the toxic rants of their preacher-supporters until they were exposed by bloggers and the news media, who had no trouble finding videos of their sermons. Have McCain and Obama ever heard of Google? Maybe they should check it out before one of them starts making presidential appointments.