MAVERICK!

After winning the backing of an influential Texas televangelist, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain today abruptly rejected the pastor’s endorsement after more of his controversial remarks became public — including a sermon in which he says the Nazis “operated on God’s behalf” to drive Jews from Europe to Israel.

McCain had distanced himself from the Rev. John Hagee’s anti-Catholic remarks describing the church as a “great whore,” a statement for which Hagee apologized earlier this month. But the Arizona senator, who wanted Hagee’s support to shore up his uncertain standing among evangelical conservatives, had not repudiated the endorsement until today.

“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said in a statement today. “I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”

But you know who else was “repudiated”, “rebuked” and “rejected”? Rev. Wright Jesus.

McCain’s strongly-worded rebuff, however, could hurt him among some evangelical voters, whose support he needs in November, said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

On accounta becuz:

Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in the United States on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks, including The Inspiration Network (INSP) and Trinity Broadcasting Network. The ministries can be seen and heard weekly in 99 million homes.

Which highlights two problems for John here: Rev. Hagee, unlike Rev. Wright, is someone who actually has a national following, and is someone whose personal endorsement might carry some actual weight outside his T-Mobile Fave 5 list. (I’ve never heard of the guy, but I don’t travel in the right circles.) The bigger problem is that none of Rev. Hagee’s theology seems particularly out-of-the-mainstream as far as the coveted “white evangelical” Republican vote is concerned. Again, not my area of expertise, but I’ve seen the 700 Club, I’m aware of the “Left Behind” story (full disclosure: I own and treasure the Kirk Cameron movie adaptations), and I’ve lived through their various public triumphs over the past decade, so I think I could spot a gross divergence from the usual script. Most protestants don’t like the Catholic church – my own private survey of Catholics leads me to believe they have plenty of company – and there’s little any protestant could say which Martin Luther hadn’t said already. Protestants deliberately aren’t Catholics. Pop eschatology generally demands that Jews live in Israel, and that God’s hand steers events to this End, so Rev. Hagee’s comments about the Nazis here don’t seem controversial. Even those who aren’t that into End Times prophecy presumably accept the idea that God can do any old thing He wants, and that His ways are not ours, so they would have a hard time explaining from their first principle how Rev. Hagee was out-of-line, except perhaps in claiming to understand the ways of the Divinity. And I think this is where McCain has made a big mistake – by abandoning Rev. Hagee for his religious beliefs, consistency requires that he do the same for the rest of Crazy Base World, a group which he needs to court as it may constitute a majority of the Republican electorate. You campaign with the party loyalists you have, dude, not the party loyalists you wish you had. I doubt Karl Rove approved this move.