Reverend Pat Robertson graciously took time off last week from his religious duties promoting a new protein pancake mix and scourging "ungodly" sodomites, Muslims, and Democrats to suggest the US should assassinate Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez.
Unveiling a new bogeyman of far right paranoia, Robertson claimed Chavez was masterminding a sinister Muslim-Communist conspiracy against Christian America. This chimera is the latest invention of the neoconservative lie factory that has been running at triple shifts churning out disinformation and pro-war propaganda.
Chavez seriously bugs Washington by bad-mouthing President Bush and US policy towards Cuba and Iraq. In fact, the ex-paratrooper’s needling infuriates the White House, which treats all criticism from abroad as an attack on Christianity.
Not to be outdone by the Rev. Pat when it comes to preposterous claims, the bombastic Chavez compares "capitalismo" to Dracula and Jack the Ripper.
However, Chavez is not a communist but a democratic populist demagogue like Argentina’s Juan Peron, whose maniac but popular social schemes bankrupted his once prosperous nation. Venezuela is America’s fifth largest supplier of oil. In 2002, the Bush Administration mounted an anti-Chavez coup that fizzled. As usual, the oh so polite US media failed to adequately report this attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government.
A huge international rumpus followed Robertson’s comments. The good reverend first claimed he had been misquoted, or quoted out of context. Faced with transcripts of his harangue, Robertson was forcing to apologize. What ever happened to "love thy neighbor," and "turn the other cheek?"
The ravings of a religious crackpot wouldn’t merit note except that Rev. Robertson is a former US presidential candidate, a highly influential bigwig in the Republican establishment, and speaks for many members of the Christian evangelical right.
Robertson, a shrewd businessman, founded the 2-million member Christian Coalition, America’s most influential rightwing protestant group. His Christian Broadcasting Network raked in a reported $200 million in donations last year, recalling George Carlin’s quip: if God is so all-powerful, why does he always need money?
Robertson is even right, sometimes. He warned President George Bush that God had told him Iraq would be a mess.
Ayatollah Robertson’s latest "fatwa" brought embarrassed silence from the president and most Christian evangelical leaders. The best the White House could come up with was lamely calling Robertson’s latest raving "unfortunate." President Bush had nothing at all to say about his pal Robertson.
Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld piously noted "we do not assassinate foreign leaders." I guess trying to kill President Saddam Hussein and his family by a Pearl Harbor-style surprise bombing attack in March, 2003 does not count.
Had some Iranian mullah called for assassinating President Bush, neocon and Christian commentators would have screamed bloody murder. At least the Iranians would not have used that favorite American euphemism for murder, the old gangster term, "take out."
Rev. Robertson’s supporters are the single largest block of pro-Bush supporters and a core constituency for the war in Iraq. Nine out of ten evangelicals voted for Bush. Robertson says, "God has blessed George W. Bush."
Robertson’s call to murder cast a spotlight on the growing power of the loopy religious far right, grouped under the banner of the Christian Coalition, which has grown into one of the most powerful political lobbies in America. At its core is an ultra-right group, known as Dominionists, who exert a bizarre and toxic influence over US domestic and foreign policy.
The Christian Coalition has largely intimidated the weak-kneed US Congress. Forty-one of 51 Republican senators received a 100% approval rating from the Coalition for always voting the way it demanded. Christian fundamentalists now control a third of all national Republican state committee posts.
Not all evangelicals belong to the hard right. Many blasted Robertson. But those that do think pretty much like Rev. Pat and believe the US must become a Protestant fundamentalist theocracy led by the word of Jesus and impose dominion over the rest of the globe by military force. Such militant cultists often sound just like the most extreme Islamic fundamentalists.
These "Christian Zionists," who are allies of the Israel’s hard-line settler movement, also urge expansion of Israel to its vague Biblical borders, ethnic cleansing Palestinians, and ingathering all Jews to the Holy Land. When this happens, they believe, the "end of days" will occur and the earth will be destroyed in Armageddon.
The Christian Zionists play a leading role in blocking any hopes of a lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Their nearly century-old conflict has poisoned the Muslim World against the United States and is the primary source of anti-American terrorism.
Amazingly, the White House reportedly had to recently assure worried evangelicals Israel’s pullout from Gaza would not affect Biblical prophecy about the world’s end.
Ironically, militant evangelists believe all non-believers, Jews as well as all other faiths, will be roasted alive in a final holocaust. The Jewish settler movement has apparently not been consulted by the evangelicals on their impending doom.
We don’t see these militants because most are hidden away in deepest Bush Country: trailer parks, the backwoods, NASCAR tracks, remote suburbs, and strip malls. But they now seem to have replaced fat-cat, country-club golfers as the Republican Party’s leading voter constituency.