Facing increasing scrutiny over his statements describing the Catholic Church as "the great whore" and a "false cult system," Texas pastor and John McCain endorser John Hagee today issued a letter of apology to his "Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ." But while Hagee's chosen candidate previously distanced himself from the minister's slurs towards Catholics and residents of New Orleans, on the topic that may matter most, Mr. Straight Talk has remained silent. Does John McCain agree with Pastor John Hagee that war with Iran is the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy of Armageddon?
Back on March 9th, McCain offered a conditional apology for Hagee's slanders "if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics." Today, Hagee himself tried to help dig McCain out of the hole he created among America's 80,000,000 Catholics. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Hagee sought to make amends:
"Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful," Hagee wrote, according to an advanced copy of the letter reviewed by Washington Wire. In the letter, addressed to Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League and one of Hagee's biggest critics, Hagee pledges "a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ."
But while McCain "categorically" repudiated Hagee's anti-Catholic bigotry and labeled as "nonsense" Hagee's assertions that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans as divine retribution for the city's "painful sin" of a "homosexual rally," the Arizona Senator has yet to reject Hagee's End of Days vision for war with Iran.
On February 27, 2008, Senator McCain shared a stage with the End Times minister and declared, "I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support." As it turns out, John McCain not only actively sought Hagee's endorsement. In 2007, McCain addressed Hagee's organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which just happens to believe the final biblical battle against the Anti-Christ will be fought by the United States - against Iran. During the annual CUFI conference in July 2006, John Hagee bluntly described his vision of Armageddon as foreign policy this way:
"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 Second Coming of Christ."
On January 29, 2007, Hagee emailed a "Newflash" to CUFI members about a meeting he held that day with McCain. While noting that he did not "want to put the specifics of our conversation in this update" because "I don't want to read it in the media tomorrow," Hagee crowed about the future Republican presidential nominee:
"Senator McCain's comments concerning Israel are on target! He gets it!"
But what exactly is that McCain "gets?" During an April 2, 2006 interview by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, McCain gave a hint. Discussing Tehran's nuclear program and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric towards Israel, John McCain sounded as much preacher as president:
MR. RUSSERT: So we could have two wars at once?
SEN. McCAIN: I think we could have Armageddon. But I think that, that if we handle this right, and our European allies stand with us, and the Russians and the Chinese stand with us, sanctions might do the job. And I am confident that this administration will exhaust every effort before contemplating seriously a military option.
Russert, of course, did not follow up to clarify with McCain what he meant when he said "we could have Armageddon." Was he literally speaking of the final conflagration involving the mass conversion and killing of the Jews described in the Bible? Does John McCain believe, as Pastor Hagee clearly does, that American foreign and national security policy should be governed by the Book of Revelation?
During an April 2007 campaign event, John McCain joked about confrontation with Tehran, singing "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." But as tensions with Iran continue to rise, the end-times views of McCain supporter Hagee are no laughing matter. So 76 days after they shared that stage in San Antonio, the McCain-Hagee Armageddon watch continues. When will the American media ask John McCain the question he must answer: does John McCain agree with Pastor John Hagee that war with Iran is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy?