Pat Robertson is nuts. But then you probably already knew that.
Robertson surpassed even his own goofy standard this week when he called for the assassination of Venezeula's president, Hugo Chavez.
We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
Been away from the blogosphere for a couple of days, so I'm sure all the good lines have already been used, but let me chime in belatedly with a few observations.
1. Venezuela is our friend. Granted, Hugo Chavez is not chummy with the current administration (whose premature celebration of an unsuccessful, undemocratic coup in Venezuela may have tipped its hand), and he occasionally smokes cigars with his Caribbean buddy Fidel. But nominally — and officially — our two nations are still friends.
We buy almost 2/3 of everything they export (mostly oil). We're both democratic, federal republics. They've got about 25 million Spanish speakers; we've got about 32 million. Plus, you know, Bobby Abreu.
There may be, as the BBC puts it, "tense relations between the two countries," but Venezuela is not our enemy. Calling for the assassination of its president is as dangerously bizarre as if Robertson had called for a hit on Jacques Chirac.
2. Robertson was forced to apologize, sort of. Here's what he said:
"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement," he said. …
"I didn't say 'assassination', I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping," he said.
So to clarify, he didn't necessarily mean "take him out" like we did with Allende. He might've only meant "take him out" like we did with Aristide.
Robertson also tried to play guilt-by-association, alleging vague links between Chavez and Iran. Not a wise step for him. Robertson really isn't in any position to start a game of Six Degrees of bin Laden. Let's see … Pat Robertson invests in blood diamonds, the sale of blood diamonds funds al-Qaida. Two steps.
3. The State Department has distanced itself from Robertson's comment, but its condemnation seems a bit tepid. Spokesman Sean McCormack said Robertson's statement was "inappropriate."
"I would say that Pat Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not represent the policy of the United States," McCormack said.
I realize that it's hard to provide a full-on public smack-down of a party leader who once garnered 120 delegates in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But still, that's pretty weak.
Robertson is almost always referred to as an ordained minister or evangelist, which is, unfortunately, accurate. This is a frequent source of embarrassment for the Christian church. But it is just as accurate to identify Pat Robertson as an influential Republican Party leader, which he is. It would be selfish for us Christians to hoard all of the embarrassment for ourselves, so perhaps I should adopt this as my primary way of referring to the
televangelist GOP statesman.
4. The AP's Richard Ostling notes that Republican leader Pat Robertson is a long-time fan of wetworks, viewing assassination as cleaner and more efficient than declaring and waging war:
Six years ago, Robertson said the U.S. could send agents to kill Osama bin Laden, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein.
"Isn't it better to do something like that … to take out Saddam Hussein, rather than to spend billions of dollars on a war that harms innocent civilians and destroys the infrastructure of a country?"
There's a certain cold logic to this calculus, but it's difficult to reconcile such an approach with Robertson's status as a Christian minister.
The Bible frowns on tyrannicide. Sure, there are some counter-examples from the bloody book of Judges — Ehud's sinister dagger swallowed up in the fat of Eglon's belly, for instance (Judges 3 would make a great movie, but it makes for lousy political theology). But such examples are greatly outnumbered by the many unequivocal condemnations of tyrannicide. The prophet Hosea, for example, said that God would punish the house of Jehu for "the massacre at Jezreel." The massacre in question was Jehu's killing of the evil King Ahab.
Christian opposition to political assassination is, of course, based on much more than such proof-texts. It's also based, in part, on a commitment to the rule of law. Robertson seems to believe that he is not bound by such rules because he has a direct channel to the mind of God.
5. On the other hand, Robertson also claims that God told him, before the invasion of Iraq, that this war would be "a) a disaster and b) messy." So the voices in his head claiming to be God aren't always lying.
6. As always when discussing Republican leader Pat Robertson, I feel it is important to remind you of this: