Mr. Peepers, the office liberal, was all atwitter yesterday over the news that Pat Robertson had endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination. "He's a hypocrite!" Peepers protested, "Robertson always talks about family values, but Giuliani doesn't have any family values. He's divorced and he doesn't get along with his family."
I advised him to chill. Understand, please, that Robertson is an awful person and Giuliani a terrible candidate. But that being said, I think the Rev. should get a little credit, no matter how late in life, for some political maturity. By endorsing Giuliani, Robertson has transcended his monomaniacal focus on family values, abortion, etc. For right or wrong, the Rev. decided that there would be more important issues in 2008 than his usual pet concerns. His fear of Islam and terrorism has taught him to prioritize. Purity on family/moral issues now matters less to him than making sure there's a strong man in Washington who will crack down on the evil ones.
So how does this credit I grant the Rev. impact the balance of his reputation? Not much. Pat Robertson remains one of the most malignant elements in American politics. His infamous comments after 11 Sept. 2001 would almost make it incumbent on Giuliani to repudiate Robertson's endorsement. The fact that the former mayor is unlikely to do that may make Giuliani himself a hypocrite, since as mayor he was quick to throw back charity offered by a Saudi prince who blamed the attacks on American support for Israel. Robertson's charity, alas, he's more likely to accept, for all the good it may do him. But this is less about Giuliani than about Robertson, and my point remains: hypocrisy, if you call it that, is a step up from fanaticism, at least in this case.
Meanwhile, I look on with interest at an impending schism within the Religious Right. Other divines have denounced Robertson's choice, some favoring Mitt Romney, some favoring Mike Huckabee. There seems to be a class divide within the movement, with the grass roots favoring Huckabee, who has a common-man appeal, and many of the leaders leaning toward the more money-friendly Mormon. Talk from the leaders about breaking away from the GOP is simmering down for the moment, but the sense I get is that the voters are getting tired of getting sold out to the corporate wing of the party. Even if all they do is stay home next year, that can't hurt.