Sunday, October 7, 2007

John McCain: "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation"

The Arizona Republican's remarks came in an interview with Beliefnet, a Web site that covers religious issues and affairs.

"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who has a grounding in my faith," the GOP presidential hopeful told the Web site in an interview published Saturday.

McCain also said he agreed with a recent poll that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation," he said.

On Sunday night, McCain sought to clarify his remarks while campaigning in Hollis, New Hampshire. "What I do mean to say is the United States of America was founded on the values of Judeo-Christian values, which were translated by our founding fathers which is basically the rights of human dignity and human rights," he said.

"I believe that anyone can be president of the United States of any faith," McCain said, saying he was angry his remarks were misinterpreted but "there's nothing I can do about it."


The National Jewish Democratic Council, an advocacy group representing Jewish Democrats, also called on the Republican Party to denounce the remarks formally.

"Former maverick John McCain's statements were repugnant," the group's executive director, Ira N. Forman, said in a statement. "It's been sad watching him transform from political maverick to religious right mouthpiece."

Forman added, "Someone running for president ought to understand the Constitution a little better. Nowhere does it say the United States is a 'Christian' nation. How can we trust someone to uphold the Constitution who doesn't even know what is in it?"

McCain's communication director, Jill Hazelbaker, issued a statement Sunday defending her candidate's comments: "Read in context, his interview with Beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely.

"In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."

Ok, we all know the dangers of taking quotations out of context, but I hope you can understand my suspicion at McCain for using the rhetoric of "America is a Christian Nation" almost verbatim from that classic Christian Conservative line. Our media runs on soundbites and I tend to think McCain knows this and wants people to know he's supportive of Christian Conservatives, despite his attempt to pacify others witht the token claim that he's accepting of all religions. Not to mention that a remark like this would be pretty consistent with John McCain's recent trend of trying to appeal to Christian Conservatives on "values" issues, radically breaking with his past moderate stances and his position as the GOP "maverick".

The whole thing reeks of political opportunism. It's blatantly obvious who McCain is trying to appeal to now that he has changed his pro-abortion rights position since he started campaigning and is adopting "Christian Nation" rhetoric. Christian Conservatives, of course, don't take him at all seriously because of his pro-choice voting record, so, predictably, he has been plummeting in the polls. It's a shame, too. People really liked the moderate, reasonable-sounding John McCain of 2000, but McCain has long since abandoned his principles and is conforming more and more to the positions and rhetoric of George W. Bush--and comes off as pretty two-faced nowadays.

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