What would it take for someone on the right to say “whoop! Sorry ‘bout that”? Bush and company are, of course, totally incapable of saying mea culpa (and W, undoutably, can’t spell it). Made-up war-reasoning, continued oil obsession in light now self-evident global warming, mass murderer Bin-Ladin still on the loose, and a degree of insensitivity that blames a dead soldier’s mother for a fucked up vacation all add up to a pretty nifty tally.
Of course, Pat Robertson is not really, officially attached to the Bush administration. Not in any “according-to-Hoyle” sort of way. No, he is one of those figures who exist in the shadows, behind the curtains, doing the moral dirty work on the front lines of the screaming, lunatic fringe of the right. Just as Fox is not an “official” instrument of the right’s agenda, Pat Robertson and his ilk (Fallwell, Reed, take your pick) stand on the oblique sidelines of the political process, getting to act like maniacs for their cause, doing their damage, then slipping back under their veils of “private citizen.”
Meanwhile, actual private citizens like Cindy Sheehan are pilloried mercilessly as though they were some incorporated bulldozer ready to roll over unborn fetuses. The worst thing she did, of course, was to use the Christian cross in her protest. The right, as we know, has proprietary rights to the use of the symbol, therefore, it is not sacrilegious that some cowboy clown blazed over them in his massive, Saudi-oil powered SUV. Whoa to the feckless PETAphile who accidentally snags a Birkenstock on a similarly themed right wing sponsored vigil. There’d be no pitch too hot for little Moonglow.
The right’s great weapon of recent years has been a kind of “shock ‘n awe” kind of overreaction to anything that smacks of criticism of political status quo. If Bill Mahr questions why US Soldiers are ill-equipped in the theatre of war, then the right-wind congressman will simply label the comedian’s comments as treasonous. If Chris Mathews questions the whack-job senator (who happens to be some kind of democrat, evidently) as to whether accusations made against former Presidential hopeful John Kerry’s war record are true, that senator must then challenge Mr. Mathews to a duel… so he can kill him, obviously. Thus, when the grieving mother of a solider killed in Iraq decides to go to the vacation Shangri La of our poor, exhausted leader, to gain an audience, the thing for the right to do is to go ape-shit, organize, make tee-shirts, and assume Sheehan is the head of some neo-pagen, vegetarian conspiracy to make sure flags are burned at regular intervals and that Christian children are forcibly placed with lesbian parents.
My thought is that the right reacts this way not because they are particularly concerned about the specific event – Cindy Sheehan protesting the war, for example – but because they link the protest to a broader, more symbolic cultural conflict. Let’s face it, they do enjoy tarring the left with a fairly broad brush. You cannot, for example, be an anti-war supporter of the NRA. You cannot be pro-choice and pro-war, etc. The narrative is too difficult for the far-right. I am sure the left does the same thing to those on the right – all right wingers are anti-choice, pro-gun, know-nothings. That, in a nutshell, is the real problem with America: an inability to accept a more complicated, more nuanced narrative.
Of course, Pat Robertson is not really interested in a complex narrative, unless, of course, it is his own. After calling for the death of Chavez, he back pedals in a way that recalls Bill Clinton’s eroto-linguistic hair-splitting during the Lewinsky scandal (and aren’t you feeling a little bit nostalgic for that feel-good era?). The difference is that in the case of Robertson, we have a record of what he actually said because he said it on television in his own words. To quote today’s Washington Post:
[...] a video of Monday's telecast shows that Robertson's exact words were: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."
He continued: "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."
I guess Pat is attempting to spin the word “it” as being taken “out of context”. I guess I don’t know too much about the way Southern Baptists use their pronouns but if it’s the same way we Hollywood Pagan Liberals use it then “it,” in this context, replaces the previous proper noun, and that is “the doctrine of assassination.”
Ok, Pat is a total idiot but that’s not what’s important here. What is important is some consideration of why the right would want this particular messenger out there running wild. Simple: Chavez is sitting on an oil reserve that might mean salvation in these post-Saudi-Oil-peak era. As Saudi Arabia starts down the road of reduced output (10-15 years?) and the trickle-spout that is the Anwar oil refuge is shown to be what it is (trickle-spout), then we need another oil sponge that we can push around or at least play nicely with. That would be Venezuela. Sadly, we don’t have a friendly on the ground there. Chavez is too social a democrat. He is too friendly with Castro (who, for some bizarre reason, we continue to have a hard-on for 40 years on. Pfizer and Glaxo should figure out how to bottle whatever is making this foreign policy so turgidly vertical), and he is too beloved of the poor (only in Caracas do anti-government protestors show up with manicures and leave in Jaguars). But, of course, the time is not right for a new demonization. We still have Iraq, we have Iran in our sites, and let’s not forget North Korea (but do forget about Bin Ladin. He’s not currently on the radar and his presence just complicates things). If Chavez’s policies continue into the next several years (provided he is still in power and some locally grown thug doesn’t return power to the 1% of the population who actually own land), then we might start considering how to best handle the situation in South America. Right now, Pat’s comments are seeds, or trial balloons, of what narrative might be forthcoming.