Pat Robertson: ‘Don’t take extremism to extremes’

Clem Britt AP In this Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 file picture, Rev. Pat Robertson talks to attendees at a prayer … Continued

Clem Britt


In this Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 file picture, Rev. Pat Robertson talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast as part of inaugural ceremonies for Virginia Gov.-elect Bob Mcdonnell at the Capitol in Richmond, Va.

When televangelist Pat Robertson rails against extremism by Republican candidates on his 700Club program, it should be a wake up call for the GOP. Even extremism can apparently be taken too far, according to this veteran of the religious right.

Of course, Robertson does not reject the content of extremist positions themselves; his objection is that the extreme views that appeal to their far-right base will cost the Republicans the general election. What’s bad about extremism, apparently, is not the radical nature of these opinions as much as the fact that you can’t win the presidency if you espouse them. As he noted on his program, “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.”

Robertson is right about that, at least. Just ask Barry Goldwater. Tea Party denizens today are very fond of carrying signs at their rallies that quote Barry Goldwater’s famous phrase from his 1964 speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

They should also be reminded that Barry Goldwater lost that election.

President Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic candidate, successfully used Goldwater’s “extremism” line to paint Goldwater as just crazy enough to start a nuclear war in the famous “Daisy ad.”

Crazy still doesn’t play well in general elections according to knowledgeable political strategists. Karl Rove just cautioned Rick Perry against flirting with birtherism, as Perry apparently did over the weekend in an interview published online. Rove cautioned, “You associate yourself with a nutty view like that, and you damage yourself…it starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people whom you need in order to get the election.”

So, both Karl Rove and Pat Robertson agree that “nutty” and “extreme” are bad for winning elections.

There’s one big difference between Karl Rove and Pat Robertson, however. Rove is a political operative and his agenda is getting people elected through effective political strategy. Pat Robertson’s 700Club is “Christian ministry” according to the Web site. What kind of “Christian ministry” is focused on the topic of how to win political elections?

Though, to be fair, that’s not all the 700Club offers. For example, this is ’“Paranormal Week” on “700Club Interactive.” I expect it’s quite informative.


Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."

    Those of my faith have a saying, “Extremism in the defense of extremism is no vice.”

    We also say, “Do you know how stupid the average person is? Well, by definition, half of them are even stupider than that.”

    Both apply.

  • WmarkW

    And Pat, don’t take literalism literally.

  • persiflage

    ‘So, both Karl Rove and Pat Robertson agree that “nutty” and “extreme” are bad for winning elections.’

    It’s not at all certain that these two are the best spokespersons for sanity and even-handedness on the campaign trail although as Susan notes, all this really amounts to is blatant hyperbole from a couple of past masters.

    But it’s all falling on deaf ears anyway, because getting republicans to buckle down and face the issues rather than relying on the typical Obama bashing, is like telling a person with OCD to stop washing their hands 200 times a day and get a job………

  • ccnl1

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country “ain’t” going to help a “pro-life” presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the “Immoral Majority” rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The “Immoral Majority” you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million “Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers” of aborted womb-babies” whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million “IM” voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day as noted in large letters on the package or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the “Stupid Majority”?)

    (The failures of these widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and STDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and STDs.)

  • MarkFromOhio

    So Robertson’s stance is that crazy extremist views are OK as long as you lie about them so you can seize power. Yes, that sounds like a conservative talking all right.

    It’s republicans vs. Americans now. Prediction: the Americans will win. Eventually.

  • Carstonio

    Anyone who claims that natural disasters and diseases are divine punishments has no business calling others extremists.

  • Carstonio

    Yes, I’ve encountered plenty of Christians, evangelical and otherwise, who voice strong disagreements with Robertson and emphasize that he doesn’t speak for their religion. Part of my point is that Robertson and the minority of people who share his beliefs should be held accountable for what they say in public.

  • Secular1

    Both, Karl Rove & psychotic Robertson have admitted that, thanks to human zeitgeist their cherished beliefs are not shared by a vast majority of Americans. They realize that their vision of America only through deception. This actually means to them any and all means are justified to achieve their goals. The question isn’t even whether their goals are good. All they want is power however they get it so they can thrust their views on all of us. These guys also scream at teh top of their lungs about small government, but they really mean big government that trusts their world view on all of us. Only thing they want the the government to go away is caring for poor, needy, and the unfortunates. For this they want us to go back to 15th century. Little is said about how well the the poor, needy and teh unfortunates had been taken care of. If they were taken care as they imagine (wet dream about), there would have been no need for the government to step in at all.

    These people and at least half the republican party is made of hate mongers, bigots, racists and psychotic. The names that come to mind, off top of my mind, are New, McConnell, Bachman, Cain, Perry, Santorum, Boehner, Eyan, Kantor, Romney (may be not a bigot but a spineless chameleon).

  • Secular1

    Yes there isn’t a whit of difference between them and the semi-literate mullahs and imams running all over dar-ul-islams, shoving their theology on all those who live there. They are all alike, bigoted, misanthropes – right out of the Salem Massachusetts of centuries ago. Just like the blood thirsty prophets of theirs, namely Moses & MO.

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