Friday, May 23, 2008

Beware of preachers

I don't think that clerics are necessarily crazier than, say, IT engineers or home inspectors (I know one of each to whom I smile and nod politely in social situations as my eyes rapidly glaze over), but they do have a special font of potential craziness to draw from in the form of religious inspiration. They also tend to be more publicly crazy than most people because of the nature of their jobs, so they leave a track record of nuttiness to be mined for gems by interested parties.

And when those clerics are associated with presidential candidates, there are always interested parties. That's something that should have occurred to John McCain, just as it should have occurred to Barack Obama. If you're going to associate yourself with a preacher and even seek his blessing for your political ambitions, maybe it's a good idea to check out the sheer quantity of madness that has appeared in that preacher's sermons.

That's especially true of experienced and, most likely, cynical politicians like McCain and Obama. These are pragmatic, power-hungry creatures who are unlikely to be attracted at all to the peculiar doctrines of John Hagee and Jeremiah Wright. A politician's god rules in the here and now, not in the afterlife, and its support comes from taxes, not tithes. McCain almost certainly courted Hagee solely because of the preacher's prominence among the religious right, where the Arizona senator is viewed with skepticism. Obama probably warmed a seat in Wright's church because it's a powerful institution among black Chicagoans, and so a good launch pad for a political career.

So -- big surprise -- they used the preachers for their influence.

But that influence comes at a price, and not just in favors owed. When preachers have a history of throwing a lot of crazy around, some of that nuttiness is going to stick to their political friends.

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