06/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Endorsements Go All to Hell

I've been meaning to write about John Hagee and John McCain. I didn't for three reasons -- Mainly, I don't care much what someone's supporter personally believes. Also, there's the difficulty in figuring out what to say about the rantings of an intolerant figure. The third was because I knew if I waited, we'd discover other abhorrences he said. Because they flow like Niagara Falls.

At long last, after many months of on-the-record offenses, John McCain has finally disavowed the support of the man he had on stage introducing him. That it took Adolf Hitler to accomplish this is unfortunate, but there's a lesson to take from it all. Perhaps a moral is more appropriate. But morals come at the end.

Here we start at the beginning.

We know that Reverend John Hagee called the Catholic Church "the Great Whore." Yes, yes, he apologized. Eventually. After weeks and weeks and weeks of pressure. (That's some heartfelt apology from a man of the cloth. Kudos.) Mind you, you have to wonder at the offensiveness of a pastor thinking and saying such a thing in the first place - and that John McCain was happy with the endorsement he actively sought out.

Then, of course, there were his comments about Hurricane Katrina wiping New Orleans off the map because God was offended by the city's Gay Pride parade. The nurturing Hagge once again recanted his words -- a year-and-a-half later. And only a week after he had reiterated them. All the while, John McCain was fine with his sought-after endorsement.

Some apology, by the way: "I see the hand of God in everything..." he began. "But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina." News flash: that's not acknowledging he was wrong, that's just noting as a mere mortal he couldn't say for certain Katrina was God's intent. But he sure happily left that barn door wide open -- because he concluded, "No matter what the cause of the storm..." No matter "what" the cause?? Sorry, but there are only two options: 1) the weather, or 2) God.

This was his "apology." And it only took him 18 months -- a week after he had reaffirmed it. Imagine the pressure it took to wring it out. And John McCain was still okee-doke with the endorsement.

(Mercifully, John Hagge didn't blame the recent Myanmar and China disasters with 170,000 deaths on God's wrath, even though 90% of those countries don't believe in Jesus. Perhaps Reverend Hagge just figures Jesus loves non-believing infidels more than He loves a lively gay parade.)

And then, of course, came the words that John Hagee believes the Holocaust was the fault of the Jews, and also that Adolf Hitler was a "hunter" sent by God to help nudge the Jews into Israel by killing six million of them. "Because God said My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."

You'd think, being God, He could have figured out safer transport. A giant canal, maybe. Even a Eurailpass would have been fine. Besides, if Your top priority is to get people to Israel, you'd think that actually getting them there would trump killing them off.

Once again, John Hagee apolo ... oh, wait, sorry. He didn't apologize for this one. Instead, he complained that he was "intentionally mischaracterized." Apparently, he is confusing mischaracterization with "playing an audio tape of his exact words."

John Hagee said he "grappled with how God could have allowed the Holocaust." And that's the best he could come up with? That Hitler was sent by God?? By this tortured logic, why not say that serial killers are messengers of the Lord to teach us that life is sacred? Anyone reading this can come up with a better explanation - and without breaking a grappling sweat.

Yes, we know John Hagee is a reverend. This doesn't give anyone license to act reprehensibly. We know all men and women are fallible, and you can't hide behind a divinity degree to excuse it.

And so John McCain finally turned down John Hagge's endorsement -- all the while seeing yet another of his sought-after endorsers, Reverend Rod Parsley (a man Senator McCain refers to as a "spiritual guide") call for the "false religion" of anti-Christ Islam to be "destroyed." And now, Senator McCain has repudiated the endorsement of spiritual guide Parsley.

This is not a debate of which is worse -- having your private pastor of 20 years go off on a rant about America, or choosing to seek the endorsement and joint-platform appearances of hate-filled national figures. But fairness requires acknowledging that they're all unfortunate. It's your choice on what bothers you most.

This began, rather, on who one chooses to seek out for that endorsement and with whom one chooses to make appearances.

At issue, in the end, is the moral:

This is what happens when the personal, private matter of religion is injected into politics. You play with hellfire, you're going to get burned.

It doesn't matter what national religious leaders John Hagge or Rod Parsley, or even Jeremiah Wright believe. What matters is what the person actually running for office believes, says and does.

That's all that matters.

Does one's pastor -- or spiritual guide -- or advisor -- or even friend have an impact on a politician? Without question. But it's how that impact manifests itself in the actions of the politician that matters.

Because ultimately, what we say and what we do ourselves is all that matters in who we are.