The Desperation of John Hagee
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jul 20, 2008 at 11:38:24 PM EST
It was not so long ago, that John Hagee was at the pinnacle of his power.  Last year Sen. Joe Lieberman publicly compared him to Moses at the annual  conference of his Christians United for Israel (CUFI); and John McCain was in the middle of his long courtship of Hagee's support for his presidential campaign. McCain eventually secured Hagee's endorsement, but it only took a few months for the the relationship to end in a mutual renunciation that sent shock waves throughout American public life.

Since then, bloggers, reporters and interest groups have been taking a closer look at the world according to Hagee. And as Bruce Wilson (whose video showing that Hagee says God sent Hitler to drive the Jews to Israel, sparking McCain's disavowal of Hagee) among others have shown, Hagee's fanatical views and demagoguery have been out in the open in his books and sermons for all to see for a long time.  It has too often been the case, that leaders of the Religious Right have not received the scrutiny they merit over the course of their careers. But times have changed a bit.  There are now more reporters, bloggers and interest groups who are paying attention than ever before.  And the entire Hagee episode is an excellent case example that merits more detailed study.

But for today, let's just consider Hagee's hasty retreat from the outer limits of the rhetoric of apocalyptic end times warfare (backed up by his own lobbying aparatus and a significant national constituency) --  to his scramble to recover the mainsream legitimacy that he and his organization have so stunningly lost in recent months.

Consider that in the past few weeks Hagee has sought to distance himself from his kookiest his allies; attempted to tamp down the effectiveness of his critics during the CUFI conference; closed the CUFI conference to the press; and is now emphasizing diplomacy and economic sanctions against Iran instead of military options.

Hagee appears to be a desperate man.

Indeed, the media firestorm that stemmed from Bruce's video expose of the Hagee's claim that God sent Hitler to push the Jews to go Israel in order to fulfill his particular view of biblical prophesy -- led John McCain to call his views "crazy" and well beyond accepted discourse in American politics and culture.

How was Hagee going to recover from this debacle?

Well, his first response was to lie. He issued a press release that attempted to shift the focus:  

It is time the candidates and the media turn their attention back to the pressing issues of our day and stop focusing on what I did or did not say decades ago.

Decades ago?  In fact, the statments that forced McCain to renounce Hagee's support had been published in his book Jerusalem Countdown in 2006.

Then, Hagee's lawyers managed to get videos by Bruce and Max Blumenthal removed from You Tube, timed in such a way that they would not have time to appeal the removal prior to Hagee's Christians United for Israel conference in Washington, DC this week. Some of Blumenthal and Wilson's videos -- including "God Sent Hitler" -- can be viewed on Vimeo, while the You Tube matter gets sorted out.  

CUFI dumped the controversial pseudo-ex-terrorist Walid Shoebat from the conference agenda. (But he turns up, Zelig-like at a conference on homeland security co-sponsored by the Texas Attorney General this week instead.)

CUFI dumped the controversial Jim Hutchens as a director of the organization.  

CUFI is now emphasizing diplomacy and economic sanctions over military strikes.  Sarah Posner writes at The American Prospect:  

So anxious is Hagee for respectability that CUFI has now even toned down its rhetoric on Iran, claiming that it will lobby next week for stepped-up diplomacy and sanctions to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, rather than the military intervention that has long been the centerpiece of Hagee's apocalyptic theology. But Hagee's efforts to make himself seem like a reasonable moderate with a purely political, not religious, agenda just won't work -- nor will his attempt to shut out critics by convincing YouTube to remove all videos of him on copyright grounds or by closing next week's summit to the press. Abundant evidence of his extremism remains in plain sight, and Jews whose approval he craves will continue to question the core claim of his Christian Zionist project: that he is a good friend to them and to Israel.

These are dramatic moves for a self important man with a powerful media jones. It was Hagee's bellicose apocalyptic rhetoric that was at once tremendously appealing to his hard core constituency -- and alarming to everyone else (except the neocon war planners in the Bush administration who require at least the appearance of crazed popular support for their militaristic machinations.) How well a newly moderate, media-averse figure will play remains to be seen.

But the real story here is that this is nothing less than a full scale retreat by the leading Christian Zionist organization in the United States.

Meanwhile CUFI's sources of legitimacy are also under pressure, For example, Jewish and Christian leaders continue to press elected officials Sen Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) not to speak at the CUFI conference.
They write:

We feel they should do so for the following reasons:

  • Pastor Hagee has claimed that supporting the State of Israel is "God's foreign policy." But his work to support the State of Israel does little than ensure that Israel's conflict with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors will continue into perpetuity given his adamant opposition to a negotiated peace.

  • He prays for the peace of Jerusalem, but not its shalom, as he looks forward instead to the false peace established through a treaty offered by the Antichrist, whom, we now know, Pastor Hagee believes must himself be a Jew.

  • Just as his ideology blames Jewish unbelief in Jesus for their centuries of suffering at the hands of Christians and provides a simplistic justification for the Holocaust (also based on Jewish intransigence), Pastor Hagee has again found a way to blame Jews for their own demise . . . this time at the hands of their self-supplied Antichrist.

  • In this political season, Pastor Hagee's radical views were first exposed by his description of the Roman Catholic Church as a "false cult system" that is the "Great Whore" of Revelation 17 and 18. Ignored in most media coverage of this controversy was the fact that these attacks on Catholicism were central to Pastor Hagee's ideological Christian Zionism.

  • Pastor Hagee's support for the State of Israel is at the expense of many others, including the Roman Catholic Church. Now, it has become clearer than ever before that Pastor Hagee's support for the State of Israel comes even at the expense of Jews.

As CUFI sought to expand its congressional influence, Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-MN) wrote that Hagee's public comments "demonstrate extremism, bigotry and intolerance that is repugnant."

We agree.

Also, Jewish Voice for Peace is calling on the Anti-Defamation League to denounce Hagee.

Jews on First! has produced a video documenting Hagee's unhealthy preoccupation with Jews.

With narration by Ed Asner, our video shows a number of instances in which Hagee's understanding of Jews and Judaism should give cause for concern. Hagee declares that Hitler was "part Jewish." He says that Jews attribute special healing powers to the "spittle" of their first-born sons. He repeats anti-semitic canards about Jewish control of the financial system.

We hope this video will prompt rabbis and Jewish organizational leaders to reevaluate their relationships with Hagee and CUFI.

The Connecticut Post reports that Leiberman is seeking to put the controversies of his involvement with Hagee behind him, but the article clearly shows that it is not working.

The campaign season can be all consuming. But the desperation of John Hagee is a sign of the times, and an advantage to be pressed while this leading organization of the religious right is retreating -- and hoping no one will notice.

Matt Taibbi's book about the inside goings on at Haggee's end of times church is interesting. I was amused when he faked speaking tongues by singing an old Russian rock song to get into the cell group he inflitrated.  I am going to submitt an artilce about Elizabeth Dilling and share some of her own connetions to these end- of- times-types.

by wilkyjr on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 10:27:03 AM EST
I stumbled across where on my Comcast Cable connection Hagee appears & was horrified at the soft-sell going on after the McCain hubhub. The objectionable fat papa was silent across the highend furniture on the set while the son & 'younger' Hagee was interviewing [actually, talking] with a retired Colonel who had defused his dominionism by reaching out to neighborhood kids where he had been posted, a kind of how-could-anybody-take-issue-with-that?-kind-of-approach. Desperation had been masked with the softsell/in-control of the military guest, who was not-a-first by accounts & invite to return. But if/when this is the defusing for "mainstream legitimacy," be aware that what we would call 'mainstream' is also where these types can never be allowed to pass with their dominionism & religious right role-play. A fox is still a fox, even when the overt r.r. lines are toned down. These people will never be close to "mainstream legitimacy."

I used to watch these types for entertainment, but even that is not within me anymore.
Arden C. Hander

by achbird65 on Sun Jul 27, 2008 at 07:40:44 AM EST

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