His race is behind him. So former Republican Presidential candidate Pat Robertson--who bristled so when reporters called him a TV evangelist instead of a businessman on the campaign trail--is now back hosting "The 700 Club" (weekdays at 6 a.m. on KTLA Channel 5) and being, well, a TV evangelist.
Or was it Robertson the "businessman" who, eyes tightly shut, concluded Monday's edition of his Virginia Beach, Va.-based program with one of those very intense "I'm-getting-word-that-God-is-hearing-your-prayer" trances for which he's famous?
\o7 There's an ovarian cyst that is going away right now. . . . Someone has had a skull fracture and concussion and the Lord is hearing that. . . . Someone has blood in his eyes. . . . It is going away. . . . There's a man named Jack who is praying for a million dollars. . . . I guess he wants to do something good with it. . . . The Lord just received your prayer in the name of Jesus.
\f7 Consider two issues.
One is whether those ailments are really being healed by prayer. If they aren't, no one watching would be the wiser. But if they are--and here is the second issue--how does Robertson know they are?
How is it that Robertson has a direct prayer line in his head, a sort of spiritual "call waiting" that somehow clicks on and clicks off on cue? And how does he know that the person praying for a fortune is named Jack and not Jill? Do prayers have gender?
Notice that Robertson was noncommittal about "Jack" getting his bucks. Even the Lord has a budget. Nonetheless, Robertson assumes that "Jack" wants to do "something good" with the money, not blow it at the track or start a revolution somewhere. Then, too, why is the Lord considering only "Jack's" money request? I've been praying for $1 million for years and haven't heard a word.
And another thing.
On his own program Monday, TV evangelist Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, disappeared into their Tulsa prayer tower ("with a real heart toward God and the people of God") to seek funds for the financially strapped medical school at Oral Roberts University. That was touching. But if, as they claim, they're so tuned into peoples' prayer needs, why didn't \o7 they\f7 intercept "Jack's" request for a money miracle?
Does the Lord assign middlemen by region? Richard gets the West and Pat the East?
One thing we now know. The Lord didn't assign Robertson the White House.
That job is going to either Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis or Vice President George Bush, whose recent Great Debate was the lead story on Tuesday's edition of "The 700 Club."
Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has its own news-gathering apparatus. And although closely aligned to the Republican party's conservative wing, he keeps up a pretense of objectivity while anchoring "The 700 Club" from a CBN news set.
His "objective" call on Sunday's Bush-Dukakis clash? Thumbs up for George.
Given "The 700 Club" audience's makeup, Robertson probably only affirmed what his viewers already believed. But what about truth in advertising? "The 700 Club" is billed as a program on religious issues, not one dispensing partisan politics. Yet despite its misleading newscast-like environment, partisan is exactly what it is, with Robertson applying the spin.
Seated in the anchor position with a world map at his back, the ever-smiling Robertson agreed with youthful CBN political editor John Waage that Dukakis triumphed on "style," Bush on "substance."
Dukakis was a better debater, but Bush "won ideologically," Robertson said. "On issues, in terms of national defense, in terms of taxes, on the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and other matters like the social issues--Bush, the winner!"
And about that Dukakis style? Well, maybe it wasn't so good after all, Robertson decided. "One (Dukakis) is dour looking and his mouth doesn't move when he talks, the other (Bush) is relaxed and smiling and genial."
Ultimately, Robertson got down to basics, noting with one of his folksy chuckles that when the two candidates shook hands in the middle of the stage Sunday, "the thing that I saw (was) Dukakis looking right at George Bush's Adam's apple." He chuckled again. "Bush was a whole head taller."
Yes, when all else fails, the "short" issue. Not very Christian, but politics is politics, and Pat is Pat.
This keen analysis of the debate was followed by a CBN News report that Dukakis was sunk in the South, then by Washington political observer Charles Cooke's evaluation of Dukakis as being all but washed up.
It was obvious by now that the Lord would not be answering any prayers from Michael Dukakis, even if he changed his name to Jack.
There were, of course, no dissenting opinions Tuesday, no voices from the Dukakis side to provide balance, no one to put the Democratic candidate in even a slightly rosier light.
Not that Robertson had a choice.
When you're selling a presidential candidate on TV, even a man of the cloth can't afford to take a chance on fairness.