Last-Minute Bad Timing

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Let's have a contest. Who has done a better job of creating a last-minute crisis for his side, on the eve of one of the closest off-year elections in recent U.S. history: Sen. John Kerry or the Rev. Ted Haggard of Colorado, who supports that state's constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage?

We'll know the answer next Wednesday, but both men deserve prizes for botched timing.

Kerry, we all know, told college students earlier this week that without an education, "you get stuck in Iraq." After two days, his fellow partisans pressured him into issuing a written apology for the self-admitted gaffe. At first, Kerry claimed he was really describing President Bush–as he had in previous speeches–and not U.S. troops in Iraq. But charges of "elitist" echoed from coast to coast and even from other Democrats, so Kerry put his abject apology in writing.

Overnight we have now learned about the woes of überpastor Ted Haggard, founder of the 14,000-member Colorado Springs New Life Church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that "represents millions of people." Seems that Haggard is the target of an accusation by a male prostitute, who told a local TV station in Denver that Haggard has been paying him for sex for three years.

Haggard is not a mouth-foaming, Bible-thumping type of evangelical. When asked by a Colorado TV station whether he believes homosexuality is wrong, there was no brimstone detected in the atmosphere. He said, "I believe God has best plans for us and his best plan is heterosexual living."

Haggard's "best plan" at the moment is to let his church investigate the charges against him and determine what, if any, punishment should be levied. Of course, Haggard had no control over the bad timing of his misfortune, while Kerry, at least reputedly, controls what comes out of his own mouth. Still, my vote for best bad timing goes to Haggard, whose accuser knocked the Kerry story off the radar screen and may induce even the most "believing" of evangelicals to stay home on Election Day.