Pat Robertson's Gift
WE WON'T even pretend to have given television evangelist Pat Robertson's latest obnoxious utterance much thought, considering his long history of pious bloviations that have made him come across to most Americans as, well, witless. Were it not for the widespread attention being given in Latin America to Mr. Robertson's call on Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, we would have preferred to allow the Christian Coalition's founder to continue his slide from America's mainstream into the obscurity he has so richly earned. But his latest bit of foolery is worth a comment or two -- if for no other reason than Mr. Robertson, in an act of stupidity only he could outdo, has handed Fidel Castro's acolyte a propaganda gift of immeasurable value.
Mr. Chavez, who, like Mr. Robertson, is infatuated with the absurd, fancies that the United States is out to kill him. It so happens that Mr. Chavez, when not meddling in the affairs of his neighbors and spawning anti-democratic movements, seems to enjoy portraying himself as a target of U.S. assassins -- a charge that he makes without evidence and that has been strongly denied by the Bush administration.
Enter Mr. Robertson. It's a pity Venezuelans don't know that "The 700 Club" broadcaster is a fading shadow of the Republican Party figure he once was. That Mr. Robertson once ran for his party's nomination, built a conservative religious advocacy group that had aspiring office-seekers quaking in their boots and -- entrepreneur that he is -- befriended every sub-Saharan kleptomaniac he managed to meet.
But Mr. Robertson's slide from the mountain peak of evangelical pontification was not because of his politics but because of his mouth. When his words were not ill-advised, they were moronic; when not callow, downright loopy, as in: predicting God would curse Orlando with a hurricane if gay-pride events were celebrated at Disney World; wishing a nuclear bomb would be dropped on the State Department; and suggesting that America had it coming on Sept. 11 because God had been insulted "at the highest level of our government." Venezuelans just may not know the Pat Robertson that America knows. Yesterday, Mr. Robertson apologized. We are used to that, too.
Still, it is curious how some of Mr. Robertson's fellow travelers have not been able to locate their tongues over this latest Robertson-inspired international disturbance. The Family Research Council and Traditional Values Coalition spare no moments in rushing forth to denounce irresponsibility on the part of those they dislike. Not so with Mr. Robertson, who only called for the United States to murder a foreign head of state. Even the Bush administration can't bring itself to censure a fellow conservative who publicly calls for his country to break the law. "Inappropriate," the State Department managed to say. The White House, embarrassed by Mr. Robertson yet again but too afraid to mix it up with his narrow but loyal base of support, simply averts its gaze. For all that, Mr. Chavez owes Mr. Robertson a thank-you note.