When last we checked, God gave Moses Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Then again, for all we know, perhaps when our attention was drawn elsewhere (a riveting episode of Tommy Lee at the University of Nebraska?), the Lord determined that ten was too many, and decided to reduce the list by one. Perhaps that's what happened when we weren't watching; how else to explain the Reverend Pat Robertson's televised call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the democratically-elected President of Venezuela? (Watch the Robertson Video Here )
Now, since assassination is defined as "the murder of a prominent person by surprise attack, as for political reasons," and since the Reverend Robertson has long proclaimed that the Almighty speaks with him on a regular basis, what other conclusion are we to draw but that the Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Murder" has been rescinded? Mind you, this is not the first time that Robertson, the famed televangelist and darling of movement conservatives, has made outrageous statements on his "700 Club." Last year, he said that President George W. Bush told him before the Iraq invasion, "we're not going to have any causalities," but that "the Lord told me it was going to be (a) a disaster and (b) messy." Needless to say, after the first few hundred causalities, the Bush Administration issued a blanket denial.
Then too, shortly after 9/11, Robertson proclaimed that "Gold Almighty is lifting his protection from us," because "we have insulted God at the highest level of government," by allowing such things as abortion and pornography, and barring prayer in the public schools. Could it be that God, the Holy One Blessed Be He, revealed to Pat Robertson that He [or She] is a conservative Republican?
In 2003, Robertson initiated a 21-day "prayer offensive" to pray for three Supreme Court justices to leave the court, after it had decriminalized sodomy. At that time, Robertson said: "We ask for miracles in regard to the Supreme Court." It should be noted that at the time of this fervent, nationally-televised plea, one Supreme Court justice was 83-years old, while two others were suffering from serious health problems. That same year, Robertson, criticizing the U.S. State Department, told his minions that "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up." And let us never forget that nearly six years ago, Robertson called for the assassination of both North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein.
Certainly no sane person can disagree that Jong Il and Hussein are sociopathic monsters who deserve to be consigned to the deepest, most fiery depths of Hell. And while at one point political assassination was the deadliest arrow in the American quiver [witness the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, the first President of the Republic of Vietnam, and the attempted murder of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro], it is no longer a lawful weapon. President Gerald R. Ford made sure of that in his 1974 Executive Order that put political assassination off-limits. So in essence, we have Pat Robertson -- a man who claims to have the ear of God -- counseling political assassination -- an act that is strictly forbidden by both the laws of the United States and the word of God.
Can we imagine any situation in which political assassination would be warranted? Without question. Adolph Hitler. His crimes were so utterly despicable, so unbelievably ineffable as to make assassination what today we would call a "no-brainer." Case made. Case closed. However, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is no Adolph Hitler. True, he is pals with Fidel Castro and does sell oil at below-market rates to his Latin American brethren. And true, he has little love or patience for the President Bush [whom he has publicly referred to as an "ass. .le" in Spanish], and will, from time-to-time warn that he, Chavez, has a gigantic bulls eye on his back. All those things may make him a leftist, an anti-American anti-yanqui icon and a paranoid opportunist, but certainly not one who should be "taken out," in Robertson's words.
One of the things Robertson and his ilk continually rail against is what philosopher's call "situational ethics" -- a theory first promulgated during [when else?] the 1960s by Joseph Fletcher. "Situational ethics" was intended to be a middle ground between antinomianism [which says there is no law and that everything is relative to the moment] and legalism, which has a set of predetermined and different laws for every decision-making situation. Robertson, Bush and the vast majority of movement conservatives are its natural and vociferous enemies. Surprisingly though, the administration response to Robertson's televised diatribe has been nothing short of an object lesson in situational ethics. How so?
Recall that a while back, when Illinois Senator Richard Durbin [a moderate Democrat] publicly compared the Guantanamo military prison to a Gulag, the White House beat the drums of outrage for days on end and furiously demanded an apology, which the Senator delivered. Then too, any and all who question Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' legal philosophy or predisposition are loudly and roundly condemned and accused of being irreligious bigots. But in the case of Pat Robertson, all we hear from the State Department is the word "inappropriate" -- hardly a condemnation. Inappropriate? To term Robertson's call for political assassination "inappropriate," is tantamount to calling Hedy Lamarr "cute," Stephen Hawking "bright," or Bill Gates "comfortable." At Defense, all Rumsfeld would say is that "the Pentagon isn't in the business of killing foreign leaders." Nowhere in those ten words is even a hint of condemnation or shock, let alone distancing. Seems like Robertson gets a free pass. Seems like the ethics of black-and-white or right-and-wrong become situational when a [if not the] leader of your political base becomes the issue.
Forty-eight hours after his bout of verbal diarrhea, Robertson tried to deny that he had ever called for Chavez's assassination. ["I never said that we should assassinate him. I merely said 'take him out,' which could mean lots of things, like . . . well. . . like kidnap him."] When that tactic looked like it was going to die aborning, he apologized -- sort of. Thanks Reverend. Your contrition is the stuff that saints are made of.
Today, precisely 72 hours after Robertson's initial gaffe, there isn't word one about him or it in the papers. It never ceases to amaze how well the administration can manage news. Especially when it involves one of their vote-cows. This White House, which proclaims itself to be on the side of the angels, has once again shown its moral hypocrisy. Shout out your moral indignation from the highest heavens when you want your loyal political base to hear; turn the volume down to less than a whisper when you don't wish to offend those who cast votes and write checks.
Pat Robertson is indeed, the mouth that roars. Wondrously, the sound he makes produces virtually no echo. And that, my friends is a miracle worthy of He who gave the world the original Ten [or is that Nine?] Commandments.