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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.