Robertson Reasonableness?

October 27, 2011

Televangelist Pat Robertson, long known for making outlandish and hateful remarks, has on two occasions this month offered some slightly reasonable perspectives on religion and politics. First, Robertson announced that he would not endorse any presidential candidates this year. He explained:

I've personally backed off from direct political involvement. ... I've been there, done that. The truth of the matter is politics is not going to change our world. It's really not going to make that much of a difference.
Although his view might be too cynical, he at least recognizes that it does not help his ministry when he becomes a partisan supporter to specific candidates. Perhaps he learned his lesson after compromising his convictions last presidential cycle and endorsing Rudy Giuliani in hopes of having influence in Giuliani's White House (a gamble that failed as miserably as Rudy's decision to bet his whole campaign on winning Florida). In the same interview, Robertson also called Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney "an outstanding Christian" Although his comments came before the recent controversy when a Southern Baptist pastor--who endorsed Rick Perry--attacked Romney for being a member of a cult (see post here), it still represents a different tone than Robertson often offers.

The second interesting comment from Robertson this month occurred when he criticized Republican presidential candidates for being too extreme on social issues. He argued:
Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off this stuff. They're forcing their leaders, the frontrunners into positions that will mean they will lost the general election. ... You appeal to the narrow base. And they'll applaud the daylights out of what you're saying, and then you hit the general election and they say 'no way.' The Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt. They've got to stop this. It's just so counterproductive. Well, if they want to lose, this is the game for losers.
It is odd that he does not appear to know who the Democratic presidential nominee will be, but the rest of his comment shows an awareness of the problems being created by much of the rhetoric in the Republican presidential field. Of course, the problem with Robertson's statement is that he is worried the comments will hurt the Republicans in the general election, not that he is bothered by the comments themselves. Earlier this week, Jon Stewart did a great job of hilariously demonstrating this problem with Robertson's argument (you can watch the video here).

Although these comments are not perfect, they are pretty good for Robertson, who in the past has given me plenty of material to write about on this blog and in my two books as I critiqued his religious rhetoric (For God's Sake, Shut Up!) and his political rhetoric (Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics). These recent comments made just be baby steps, but it is still nice to seem him tone things down.