At a certain, a couple of months ago, news outlets decided that Barack Obama’s association with Jeremiah Wright was the single most important facet of this year’s presidential campaign, at least so far. How could a presidential hopeful have a relationship with an intemperate pastor? Who’s said nutty things? What does it say about Obama’s judgment that it took him a while to denounce Wright personally?
And then there’s John McCain, who is also associated with a motley crew of radical religious zealots, and who has largely been given a pass by the media. We’ve talked about McCain cozying up to Jerry Falwell (even after Falwell blamed 9/11 on Americans), and we’ve talked about McCain befriending John Hagee (even after Hagee called the Catholic Church a “great whore” and a “false cult system”), but Rod Parsley probably hasn’t generated the kind of attention he should.
Consider, for example, this new clip put together by Brave New Films and Mother Jones.
You’ll notice, of course, that despite Parsley’s record of sheer lunacy, McCain nevertheless said he was “honored” to have Parsley’s support. Indeed, McCain — who recently denounced Obama for some of his associations, and demanded that Obama “apologize” for people he knows — called Parsley “one of the truly great leaders in America,” “a moral compass,” and a “spiritual guide.”
Rod Parsley is, by most decent standards, something of a religious fanatic. And yet, McCain not only treats him as some kind of hero, McCain also reached out for his political support, and has refused to distance himself either Parsley or Parsley’s record of insane rhetoric.
I’m still reluctant to play the guilt-by-association game — Colbert labeled it “collateral friendage” this week — but I’m looking for some sense of fairness here. And I can’t find any.
Maybe, you’re thinking, the problem is that Parsley wants the United States to destroy Islam, and because there’s so much anti-Muslim bigotry out there, McCain thinks he can get away with his relationship without paying a political price. That may be. But let’s not forget that the extent of Parsley’s hate goes well beyond one religious minority.
Parsley has written several books outlining his fundamentalist religious outlook, including the 2005 Silent No More. In this work, Parsley decries the “spiritual desperation” of the United States, and he blasts away at the usual suspects: activist judges, civil libertarians who advocate the separation of church and state, the homosexual “culture” (”homosexuals are anything but happy and carefree”), the “abortion industry,” and the crass and profane entertainment industry.
Best of all, his rhetoric frequently includes what sounds like appeals to violence, telling his followers, “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations. Ready your weapons.” (One wants to assume he’s speaking metaphorically, but it’s not entirely clear.)
Earlier this week, Tim Russert said the media would pay more attention to McCain’s radical preacher allies “if there was video.” Well, guess what, Tim, you’re in luck. All you have to do now is put it on the air.