The Daily Show's Jon Stewart tried to warn him in 2006, but John McCain didn't listen. Battered by all sides over his embrace of End Times Pastor John Hagee, John McCain is finally experiencing the blowback from his pandering visits to "crazy base world."
Two years before he shared a San Antonio stage with John Hagee, John McCain in the spring of 2006 sought to jump-start his GOP presidential bid by repairing his frayed relationship with the religious right. On April 2, 2006, McCain appeared on Meet the Press and retracted his famous 2000 claim that the late Reverend Jerry Falwell was an "agent of intolerance." On May 13, 2006, McCain delivered the commencement address at Falwell's Libery University. There, the two men walked on stage together, where Falwell then praised his former foe, "the ilk of John McCain is very scarce, very small."
But weeks before McCain journeyed to Lynchburg, Virginia to deliver that speech, he traveled to New York to appear on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There, Stewart jokingly warned McCain about the risks in pandering to evangelical GOP voters through his looming rapprochement with Falwell:
STEWART: You're killin' me here. I feel like it's a condoning of Falwell's kind of crazymaking to some extent to have you go down there, and it strikes me as something you wouldn't normally do. Am I wrong about that?
MCCAIN: Jon, I've spoken at a lot of schools, I've spoken to schools whose specific policies I may disagree with - Ivy League schools don't allow military recruiters, I don't agree with that. I'm going there to speak to the students at his invitation, and I can assure you that the message will be the same that I give everywhere.
STEWART: You don't think that it helps to sort of reassert Falwell as the voice for a certain group of people, say evangelicals or the Christian Right? Isn't it the kind of thing that maybe if you don't go there, it helps to keep marginalizing guys like that, or do I misunderstand politics? No? Maybe I misunderstand things.
MCCAIN: Jon, I try to, as I said --
STEWART: Why do I feel like I'm about to get grounded?
MCCAIN: Listen, I love coming on your show. Young people all over America watch it. I love to travel around the country and speak at colleges and universities. Look - they're all parts of the Republican Party. I respect them; I may disagree, and I'm sure that I've had disagreements with them. I'm not going to change -
STEWART: You're not freaking out on us? Are you freaking out on us? Because if you're freaking out and you're going into the crazy base world - are you going into crazy base world?
MCCAIN: I'm afraid so.
STEWART: All right, sir. You know we have great regard for you here, and I hope you know what you're doing there, I trust that you do. When you see Falwell, do you feel nervous, do you have vomit in the back of your throat - what does it feel like?
MCCAIN: No, but I'll give him your love.
(The video of the exchange is available here.)
Fast forward two years and John McCain no doubt is feeling the bile rising. Under attack for embracing Hagee, an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic advocate of accelerating the Second Coming of Christ by triggering Armageddon in a death struggle with Iran, John McCain today could offer only the Sgt. Schultz defense. McCain played dumb regarding the most recent statements about the divinely mandated role of Adolf Hitler from Hagee, a man whose endorsement he aggressively sought, "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement."
As Jon Stewart warned him, this is what happens when John McCain goes to crazy base world.
(An earlier version of this piece appeared on Perrspectives.)