TV preacher Pat Robertson's big mouth has him in trouble again – this time with some people he normally calls friends and political allies.
When we last left the intrepid Virginia televangelist, he had managed to offend the entire country of Israel, when, during a speech in that nation, he urged Jews to accept Jesus as their personal savior.
Now Robertson has managed to annoy the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and stir up a mini-flap about the Iraq war in the waning days of the presidential race with a rather startling claim: Robertson says he met with the president before the start of conflict in Iraq and that he was assured by Bush that there would be no American causalities.
During an interview on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now," Oct. 19, Robertson attempted to explain why Bush is God's candidate and has been blessed by Him "even if he stumbles and messes up – and he's had his share of goofs and gaffes."
Zahn pounced, asking Robertson to elaborate on the president's "blunders."
"I met with him down in Nashville before the Gulf War started," Robertson said. "And he was the most self-assured man I ever met in my life. You remember, Mark Twain said, he looks like a contented Christian with four aces. I mean, he was just sitting there like, ‘I am on top of the world.'"
Despite Bush's smugness, Robertson had cause for concern. In fact, God had already tipped off Robertson that all would not go well in Iraq.
"And I warned him about this war," Robertson continued. "I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties."
According to Robertson, Bush promptly replied, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any causalities."
Thanks to his inside information, Robertson begged to differ. "‘Well,' I said, ‘it's the way it's going to be,'" he recalled. "And so, it was messy. The Lord told me it was going to be a), a disaster, and b), messy. And before that, I had deep, in my spirit, I had deep misgivings about going into Iraq."
Robertson has been a strong supporter of Bush – earlier in the year he prophesized that God revealed to him that the president would win re-election in a "blowout" – but claims like this were just too much for the Bush team to handle because they made it appear that the president was blasé about potential casualties prior to the war. Accordingly, the Bushites dumped all over the mercurial TV preacher.
Bush's top political advisers, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, flatly said Robertson either misunderstood the president or was making up quotes. Robertson has issued a statement standing by his recollection of the discussion but also offering support for Bush.
Meanwhile, other Religious Right figures are trying to make Robertson appear like a marginal figure. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and political ally of Robertson, jumped into the fray, telling The New York Times that Robertson "speaks for an ever diminishing group of evangelicals on most issues."
In 2002, Robertson criticized Bush's "faith-based" initiative on his "700 Club" program. Later that year, his charity, Operation Blessing, got $500,000 in "faith-based"a funding from the federal government. At that time, the administration saw Robertson as important enough to pay off. If he keeps talking like this, he won't be getting any more checks.