Good children, don't you fret. The Silent Lobotomy will never rule this nation, and certainly not for more than eight years.

"That's all very well for you to say," some sensible reader is probably muttering, "but look around you, look at a candidate like Pat Robertson, and then say, if you dare, don't fret for the health of this republic."

But don't you see, progress is everywhere. Mr. Robertson is touchy nowadays about being called a TV evangelist. He wants to be called something else. Understandable, since "TV evangelist" is usually intended as an insult.

And I call it progress when one of the most conspicuous TV evangelists does not want to be identified by his calling any more.

Besides, much that seems loony in America is not a serious matter, but simply a spinoff from the great American game of advertising, in which one is allowed to play Wonderland without reproach. The point of the game is to do whatever is necessary to part hip from dollar. Thus the words can be anything provided that, combined with images that jiggle, they produce the required result.

Advertising works best with me if I already want the product, but if it's soap and stuff they just lose me. I buy the cheapest aspirin I can find, and in days when I drank a lot of gin, I used to buy the cheapest. The way some people carry on about high-priced gin, you would think they were fixing to give a medal to a claret. But gin is gin, and I used to drink enough to know.

"Think big, win big" is the wonderful slogan of the state-sponsored lottery, to give another example of inspired selling.

"Think big." Makes you feel like Donald Trump, right? Unlimited vision.

"Win big." You aren't going to win big and you know it. Still, it's nice of them to say so. Better than "Hey, sucker," which is the truth, but a bit rough.

In daily life, after all, we like somebody to say we look great, even if we have seen Herbert Hoover and he is us.

Truth, to make an end of the matter, rarely sells products, but lies, when sufficiently baldfaced to be excusable on grounds of chutzpah, can sell a great deal. Women's cosmetics at 20 times the reasonable price still don't cost more than can be pried out of most women. Theatrical cold cream in bulk is as much as any woman can do for her skin, but if her head is all drunk with "Dynasty" she doesn't want bulk. And no woman needs to be told she's going to look just the same after a day -- hell, a month -- at Elizabeth Arden. And men, equally vain, are even more touchy. They call it gettin' in shape, man, and they too don't need any truth.

It's not really a lie in our society to speak of economy when your product is extravagant or to husky up your voice about glamor when the product's crud can scarcely be hid. It's puffery, and we don't go making a federal case of it.

A lot of political campaigns are no cause for alarm, either; they're just hot air never intended to win a majority of votes or do us any other harm. If you run a hot dog dealership and run for president I think you become dean of hot dog dealers. The candidate may be grossly clumsy at selling himself, but we give him A for effort. We know (from TV) that embalmed pastries at the grocery are "better than homemade" and don't argue because we're too lazy to cook. Same with candidates. Why argue? He isn't going anywhere anyway. If he has to sound off, no great harm done, and as many will be entertained as will be infuriated.

Robertson was launched into the American consciousness by powerful images. He spoke and the hurricane listened. He groaned and the athlete's foot and pancreatic cancer were cured. He thus became revered by some, and was deemed weird, really, by the rest.

The power of TV images is that you buy the advertised mouthwash long after the commercial is over. The down side of this phenomenon (as many a politician will testify) is that the image does indeed persist. It hovers indefinitely. Robertson's error was to flood the nation with images nobody can forget and few can stomach.

Actually, the ordinary citizen has also had traffic with God. Let me pass this exam. Turn away this mortgage. Get my kid in Tufts (for there is no end to the amazing prayers of our people). In the sense that a man can speak with God I reckon millions have done so and He has responded, sometimes with a whammy in the fifth round, as it were, that we did not expect.

So in a sense I do not question Robertson's dialogues with the Almighty, who, I can conceive, has told him much. But maybe not the punch line yet.