Yesterday it was all over the news pages on the web: Pat Robertson says Ariel Sharon’s stroke is an Act of God. I was toying with the idea of writing something about it, but wasn’t feeling too excited about the whole idea. Pat Robertson has painted a bull’s eye on his chest so many times since he ran for President that sometimes I think it’s a deliberate ploy.
He’ll make the most outrageous of comments, but in such a manner that when he’s rightly pilloried for it, he can back off and look all innocent and confused. “Good gracious” he seems to be saying; “I didn’t mean to cause such a ruckus”. He will smile his folksy smile, chuckle his little laugh, and shake his head in rueful admission of his own foolishness.
If you keep at him after that he begins to come across like the victim, not the perpetrator in the circumstances. Not just to his followers either, but to anybody who falls for his aw shucks, folksy charm. All of a sudden he looks like the innocent country preacher who’s ventured into waters he knows nothing about, and the sharks of the media have gone into a feeding frenzy over nothing of consequence.
The fact that he was able to trivialize calling for the assassination of a head of state into something minor is just one example of the man’s political savvy. His experience with the press during his ill fated seeking of the Republican nomination back in 1992 taught him lessons he’s not forgotten. He now knows how to use them to his best advantage.
He knows they will over react to anything he says. He can get his name in the news with an ease that most politicians and movie stars would envy. When he drops one of his little bombshells he does it knowing full well what kind of reaction it will elicit. He counts on it because of how well it suits his purposes.
Each time it happens he establishes himself, just that little bit more, as the one voice of reason speaking the word of God in a world increasingly hostile towards Christianity. He doesn’t care what the media, or anybody else thinks of him. Every word out of his mouth is addressed to one audience and one audience only: the converted.
He’s learned the truly valuable lesson that all politicians have learned when it comes to exploiting the media for their own gain: the almost total refusal of the press to offer any analysis of an event. He knows they will only report verbatim what he says and then seek out an opinion from an opposing source to serve as the rebuttal.
They will denounce him as bone headed and bigoted. He will counter with confusion and confession. They will sound shrill and angry; he will be bewildered and regretful. These events couldn’t work out better for him if he had mailed out scripts to all parties concerned in advance.
You see the most important thing that those who oppose him are missing is that while the things he says might sound horrible and hateful to their ears, Pat is speaking for his flock. They either already agree with what he is saying, or they are willing to believe it because it’s his opinion.
When he is attacked in the press, the millions of people who support him feel like they are being attacked. Each time he speaks out and elicits a strong negative reaction from one liberal group or another, it’s further proof that nobody but him speaks for his people.
After the last Presidential election, it became obvious that America is moving in the direction of his people. While always a country with a certain amount of devotion at its heart, conservative Christianity seems to be coming to the forefront.
Given this fact, and his recent pronouncements, the obvious question springs to my mind. Is Robertson gearing up for another run at the Presidency in 2008, or is he merely establishing himself as an even stronger power broker? Up until the fall of 2005 he had limited himself to talking about social issues that were dear to the hearts of Conservative Christians.
But his last two pronouncements have been related to foreign policy. How many “patriotic” Americans haven’t felt the same frustration with foreign leaders that Robertson expressed when he spoke about how Chavez should have been assassinated when the chance was there?
To a country that’s tired of seeing its soldiers come home in boxes doesn’t it seem like a reasonable solution to the problem of people opposing their wishes? Instead of gong to all that expense of conducting a war and killing off our young folk, lets just kill another county’s leader and save a whole lot of mess and bother. He makes it sound so reasonable.
When it comes to the Middle East it should be no surprise to anyone that he would invoke scriptures to push his political agenda. Saying that Arial Sharon’s stroke was an act of God because he contradicted the scriptures serves Robertson’s ends neatly.
It makes him look like a defender of the faith, because all he’s done is quote the Bible and he’s being attacked in the media. At the same time he is showing how the Bible can be used to guide all of our actions. Look he says, here’s what the Bible says we should be doing about the Middle East, and see what happens if we don’t do as we’re told.
First Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated because he went against the word of God, and now Ariel Sharon has been struck down with a stroke. (He conveniently ignores how Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George Bush, all men who have pushed for Palestinian recognition, are still hale and hearty) Therefore it ‘s folly to go against the word of God when it comes to anything. All we need do is look to the Bible and all of our answers are there.
There is nothing more seductive in times of uncertainty than someone who, with authority and humility, offers the means for answers. He doesn’t even have to claim to have them himself, all he has to do is say that they are available; all you need do is believe and freedom from fear will be yours.
To some people Pat Robertson looks like a fool, coming out with sweeping generalizations that sound like ravings. But he should not be dismissed lightly or out of hand. He knows his audience and what they want to hear. He’s talking to them, expressing their opinions, and offering more of a solution to their problems than anybody else out there.
Rushing to condemn Pat Robertson only serves to elevate his status among his followers, and make him all that more attractive to people of like mind. Pat Robertson has one of the most politically astute minds in America right now. Each time he makes one of his pronouncements he’s testing the waters to see what the reactions will be and how many rally round his flag.
I don’t know if Mr. Robertson has any agenda in mind aside from the continual propagation of his message of conservative Christianity. But his actions recently are similar to that of someone working up to the beginnings of a political campaign. We could be watching the first steps of the Robertson for President campaign of 2008.
Dependant on how things shake down over the next two years not only is that a very real possibility, he could also be a candidate to be reckoned with. The groundwork for the integration of church and state has already been established in America. A Robertson presidency is nowhere near as far fetched now as it was in 1992.