The Pat Robertson Endorsement of Rudy Giuliani

Editor's note: Wednesday's endorsement of the GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani by Pat Roberson has provoked much commentary among our contributors, with varying interpretations of the event.  It followed by one day the endorsement of Mitt Romney by Paul Weyrich, certainly indicated that the religious conservative vote is not to be regarded as monolithic by anyone. What follows is a sampling of comments from AT writers:

AT political director Richard Baehr wrote:

There will be a real war between Rudy and Romney, I think, and it will go on well after February 5th, if Rudy wins at least one of first 3 or 4. McCain's strength in New Hampshire is hurting Rudy there. I think both Rudy and McCain are doing better than most polls suggest,  since they only survey Republicans, and independents get to vote in some primaries.

I like Romney. He may well be nominated.. But I do not see how he wins next November. I don't see what states he adds, and I see states he loses that Bush won. The more he marries himself to social conservatives to get nominated, the less likely he is to win next November.

The social conservatives include a segment who would rather lose than compromise their purity. However, up against Hillary, Rudy would get most of their votes, I think. The leadership is a bigger problem than the rank and file.

George Neumayr wrote:

Pat Robertson's Big Tent of Babel

It is not surprising that he endorsed Giuliani

After Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday, John McCain said, "Every once in a while, I'm left speechless. This is one of those times." Others have expressed similar astonishment, and the media, which normally has no use for Robertson, is playing up this "striking alliance."

But I don't find the endorsement surprising at all. Rather, it seems to me the logical terminus of the political horsetrading and subtle deempahsis of moral conservatism implicit in Robertson's broken old project, The Christian Coalition.

In keeping with its typically stupid oversimplifications, the mainstream media has always cast Robertson as a "rigid" Christian fundamentalist when the reality is more depressing and complicated: Far from being reliably doctrinaire and consistent, he has shown himself all too flexible to adjust Christian conservatism for the sake of a perceived greater Republican good.

Go back and look at the "Big Tent" politically correct strategies Roberston protege Ralph Reed used to pursue as head of the Christian Coalition in the name of "tactical" victories. Those foreshadowed Robertson's eventual endorsement of a "pro-choice" Republican presidential nominee, as did for that matter his inane endorsement of the ideologically feckless Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. (Recall his insistence to Christian conservatives that she represented an "acceptable" choice to the Court; he even warned Republican senators that if they voted against her they would face retaliation. This is all worth keeping in mind as Robertson justifies his endorsement of Giuliani on among other claims that he is sure to select solid nominees to the Court.)

The Christian Coalition endeavored to be "mainstream" but in the process lost its distinctively Christian message and became a confusing adjunct of a drifting GOP. This "mainstream" chatter was at the time presented as nothing more than a change in style, not substance. But in fact the substantive message was slowly changing. To serve the needs of Republican coalition politics, social conservatism had to be buried within a "larger" agenda and whittled down for politically correct consumption. As one example of this, in 1996, Ralph Reed suggested the party's pro-life plank was too narrow and should be amended (to include mentions of "compassionate" alternatives to abortion and so on). 

Unlike Jerry Falwell who didn't bother to play such games, Robertson had a weakness for the Big Tent babble that made the rise of the Schwarzeneggers and Giulianis inevitable. In 1992, he said "the task of evangelicals in politics will be to recognize that a political party is not a church and therefore it is most counterproductive to exclude...valuable potential allies on the basis of narrowly defined doctrinal purity."  

What this meant in practice was that Robertson's Christian Coalition might as well have been called The Republican Coalition, as it reduced the concerns of Judeo-Christian morality to one item on a much longer list of Republican positions on the economy and crime. Many of these positions were sensible but lumping the central issues of morality in with the rest had the effect of marginalizing it.

"We have allowed ourselves to be ghettoized by a narrow band of issues like abortion, homosexual rights and prayer in school," Reed explained as he broadened the group's message beyond social conservatism. This approach was the Christian Republican equivalent of the liberal U.S. Catholic bishops' ill-fated Seamless Garment theory in the 1980s which treated abortion as just one among many concerns.

And it has proven just as "successful." The Seamless Garment theory helped elect pro-abortion Catholic Democrats; now the Robertson/Reed version of it helps elect pro-abortion Republican ones.

If anything, history shows that the "narrowly defined doctrial purity" of the Moral Majority packs much more of a political punch than the muddled Christian Coalition message. Falwell helped elect Ronald Reagan; Robertson has reduced himself to a PR tool for an obvious cultural liberal who wouldn't dare appear with him on stage if he didn't serve the temporary purpose of head-faking Christian conservatives.

"The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple," Robertson once said. The mission "is "to mobilize Christians-one precinct at a time, one community at a time-until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system."

Yet it has become the tail. Under Robertson's temporizing logic, the same Christian conservatives who supposedly entered politics to stop pro-abortion politicians now find themselves shilling for them.

George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.


Kyle-Anne Shiver wrote:

Robertson Endorsement Huge Boost for Giuliani
Writing as one who has followed the rise of Pat Robertson and his 700 Club since the late seventies, I can say that this is a huge plum in Mr. Giuliani's battle for social conservative, religious voters.  Pat Robertson is to Christian broadcasting what Ted Turner is to classic movies.  Robertson not only founded CBN, but is CEO and founder of a host of other religious-based enterprises, bringing with him a tremendous following across denominational lines.  For him to endorse Mr. Giuliani, in my opinion, demonstrates that he shares my own pragmatism this election season, and is indeed looking for a King David.  Perhaps Mr. Robertson understands that Giuliani is best for 2008 because he is the only one running for the job, who can actually do the job.

Robertson is set apart from other evangelical leaders due to his longer reign, national recognition and extraordinary business acumen.  Louis Freeh, former FBI director and a Clinton appointee, is a traditional Catholic who has endorsed Giuliani, and now Robertson, who is quite an elder figurehead of evangelicals, has come out for him.  These are very significant endorsements. 


J. James Estrada wrote:

Rudy is Beholden to the Right

The Republican nomination process has hit a new milestone with the endorsement of Rudy Giuliani by Pat Robertson.  Most endorsements in reality do not carry much weight - Paul Weyrich endorsed Mitt Romney this week-but this one does and it's infuriating some social conservatives.  Rudy is not a conservative on social issues and he'll tell you that.  What he also has said is that he will respect social conservatives concerns in the arena of Supreme Court jurist selections.  Why not hold him to that?  After all, that's a big stick Rudy is handing to members of the Religious Right.

With the passing of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson represents the last well-known face of the Religious Right.  That's what makes his announcement backing Giuliani so significant.  Does Robertson believe Giuliani will betray this step of faith by appointing a "Souter" or a "Kennedy," as Republican presidents have done in the past?  No way.  Giuliani must follow through precisely because he does not have the "values" track record of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan that allowed them to get sloppy with the nods given to Souter and Kennedy, respectfully.

Giuliani is not Solomon, but he may be David.  In biblical times, David was war time leader who had "blood on his hands."  As such, he was unable to, by God's own decree, to build the Temple.  We are a nation at war.  More blood will be shed to defend this nation.  Among the Republican candidates, it is Giuliani who has articulated clearly his belief that this war is exactly what it is - a clash for civilization and not of civilizations.  He has not spoken of end games but of winning the game.  The other candidates are too concerned with so-called public weariness to the "war in Iraq," when, as Giuliani knows, it's a war America must not get tired of because it doesn't end in Iraq.

Social conservatives can continue its grass roots movement no matter who is in the Oval Office.  God forbid Mrs. Clinton is elected president.  Does that mean the work that is done at "street level" for the hearts and minds of young women facing a decision to end a pregnancy (indeed, a life) is cancelled?  Certainly not!  In reality, the "values" that live in the human soul cannot be reached by the sword, but by the flesh.  The real power lies not in the White House, but in your house.