John McCain 2000: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate. They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters. Why? Because I don’t pander to them.
John McCain on Beliefnet 2008: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.
It’s not that I vehemently disagree with the Senator, I even kind of know what he means by Christian values–a whole set of vague values that are all about love, peace, and pluralism. I buy into those, so does Judaism, (I think that Islam can also) and so does anyone who carries any sort of an ethical compass. If someone can’t be peaceful, loving and pluralistic in the vaguest political sense of each word, we as country would do better without them. But what is pathetic about McCain’s pandering is that he is doing exactly what he railed against eight years ago, pandering to those who stand on the side of intolerance and bigotry.
Rabbi Grossman and Jon Meachem writing in the Herald Tribune might be correct that John McCain’s recent statements indicate a very shoddy understanding of the Constitution. But that never stooped anyone from becoming president. McCain’s statements are disturbing because they highlight how faith has become the shmattah (rag) of politics-–there to wipe away dismal polling numbers or pamper a constituency that continues to cry that its voice is not being heard.
Senator what’s happened to you? What happened to the straight talk? What happened to the honesty that made you a most popular politician in America? I know how tempting it is to play the religious card. Rudy and Mitt both have more baggage than Dobson can handle and you think, “Hmmm. Maybe I can sneak in there and grab the religious right’s vote.” Earth to senator McCain: in your dreams! Sorry Charlie, they are not going to buy it and you should not be selling it because they know what you know: you don’t really believe it yourself.