John McCain wants Americans to elect him to provide tough leadership in a dangerous world. But when it just takes some mud slung from a few left-wing Web sites to drive him under a rock, you have to wonder.
I'm talking about the pastor eruptions involving John Hagee and Rod Parsley.
Columnist Robert Novak wrote last week: "While the McCain campaign feels it has secured the party's conservative base, we feel that is not the case ... The McCain problem here is that he does not recognize that he has a problem."
If you doubt that McCain does indeed have a problem, just look at the Intrade.com contracts. These are futures contracts in which private investors can purchase "bets" on political contests. The value of a contract at any point in time reflects the market's probability assessment of the outcome of that contest. A contract trading 70 cents on the dollar on Candidate A means that the market is giving Candidate A that same 70 percent chance of winning. Because the volume of trading is large and individuals are putting up their own cash, these contracts are proving to be more accurate predictors than polls. They predicted the outcome of every Senate race in 2006 and called 49 out of 50 states correctly in the 2004 presidential election.
As of this writing, Intrade.com contracts are showing a 58 percent chance of Obama winning the presidency and a 38 percent chance of a McCain victory.
I'd say that McCain has got problems. What are they?
There's a long list. But one big one, in my view, is Novak's observation that McCain's conservative base is mush. I'd qualify this to say his evangelical Christian base, 78 percent that supported President Bush in 2004.
Was it accidental that the same day McCain disassociated himself from John Hagee, a point and a half was shaved off his Intrade.com contract?
The flak about John Hagee comes from a sermon the pastor gave years ago, recently aired on some left-wing Web sites, including the widely read Huffington Post. In the sermon, Pastor Hagee interprets Hitler as the "hunter," in the language of a prophecy of Jeremiah that drove the Jews back to Israel. No sooner had the left-wing blogosphere entered orgiastic ecstasy with the discovery of what, for them, was inflammatory and damning material against Hagee, than John McCain's hands went up in surrender. He said he was not aware of the sermon when he accepted Hagee's endorsement and now says, "No, thank you, you can have it back, sir."
Pastor Hagee has been a stalwart supporter of Israel and, through his Christians United for Israel, has raised millions in humanitarian aid for the Jewish state. He was invited to speak to the 2007 annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation's largest group of Americans supporting and lobbying on behalf of Israel.
Last year, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, our only Orthodox Jewish senator, spoke to Hagee's group. He called John Hagee "a man of God" and said, like Abraham, Pastor Hagee "will be blessed because he has blessed Israel."
Now McCain has also politely returned Pastor Rod Parsley's endorsement. He's offended that Parsley called Islam "an anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world."
Now, there appears no shortage of talk from religious leaders in the Muslim world that says exactly this. Frankly, I don't hear a lot from Muslim leaders rejecting it. And, who exactly is it we're worried about in the half-hour security lines that we wait in at the airport? Look, Israel just celebrated its 60th anniversary. There are some 14 million Jews in the world. There are 1.8 billion Muslims. There is one Jewish state and 27 countries with more than 90 percent Muslim population. Yet, the Muslim world has not given the tiny, solitary Jewish state a day of peace.
John McCain says he's a Reagan Republican. In a 1985 interview with Pat Robertson, then-President Reagan said, "I am convinced this is a nation under God. And as long as we recognize that and believe that, I think he'll help us."
I wonder if John McCain believes it? I wonder if John McCain really wants to be president?