It looks like I've survived another weekend with Pat Robertson and his Christian Coalition. Every year they call their annual meeting the "Road to Victory." I don't know about you, but I'm glad that they are still on the road and haven't gotten to victory yet. The world this group and its leader would create would be more suitable for the 19th century than the 21st.
This year's gathering was a bit more subdued than usual. Attendance was a third of what it was in its heyday. The enormous ballroom at the Washington Hilton was even set up with "academic" seating large tables in front of each row of chairs, unlike in past years when the chairs were crowded in tight rows without tables. This cuts at least one-third of the seating, and makes absences less noticeable.
As usual, a lot of the convention-goers recognize me. Most folks are nice to me, but this year the head of the Coalition's Oregon chapter got really upset. He told me I wouldn't "be standing here next year." I tried to ask him why not would they change the rules to bar me, would God strike me dead or did he plan to take me out himself?
Sadly, I didn't get very far. He continued screaming about me being a "liar" and then announced: "I repeat: you won't be standing in this exact spot a year from now." Maybe he plans to have a potted plant stuck there just to annoy me.
A lot of the attendees were surprised to learn that George W. Bush would not be coming. After all, this group is being asked to work hard for his election and to distribute up to 70 million voter guides to make that happen. In fact, even vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney didn't show. Instead, vice-presidential spouse wanna-be Lynne Cheney was the official representative of the Bush campaign. The day after she spoke, a videotaped message from Bush was aired on giant TV screens for all of four minutes. It sure looked like Bush didn't want any press photographers snapping shots of Robertson giving him a hug.
In his keynote address Friday morning, Robertson himself gave a strangely mellow address not even mentioning the Food and Drug Administration's decision the previous day to allow the sale of RU-486, the so-called "abortion" pill. This, too, seemed purposely crafted to try to make C-SPAN viewers and the media forget that hot-button social issues are really what this organization has always been about.
Robertson spent about a third of his speech discussing the much-ballyhooed federal budget surplus. He said in reality there is no surplus yet, but that both parties have plans for using it on new spending. The crowd applauded this observation. Robertson carefully pointed out that Gore wants to create more new government programs, even suggesting he just dress up in "a red suit and a white beard."
Curiously, though, all of the House and Senate leadership Dick Armey, Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert and the rest told the crowd that they would be returning the budget surplus (which they apparently don't know does not exist) in the form of tax cuts. The crowd also applauded that observation. Basically, the crowd seemed pretty confused about this whole economic business.
Robertson also claimed that the Christian Coalition is bipartisan. This was not in evidence, however, since there were no Democrats on the platform, and members of other parties were banned too. In past years, one of the most popular speakers was always Patrick J. Buchanan. He'd throw out the red meat that the conservatives really wanted to devour: lurid anti-abortion rhetoric and rabid claims that America's sovereignty is a hair's breadth away from being absorbed by the United Nations and "one-world government."
This year, though, Buchanan is not a Republican anymore, but the standard bearer of the Reform Party. He wanted to be on the program in fact, he asked repeatedly to be on but he was turned down. You don't have better evidence than this that any "bi" in the partisan department is smoke and mirrors, and that this group is interested solely in supporting and electing Republicans. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you'd probably have thought you'd have traveled back in time to this summer's National Republican Convention in Philadelphia.
The exhibit hall this year was even much more sedate than usual. Of course, last year it had a large contingent of companies profiting from the big Y2K disaster scam. I can see why they might have been a bit embarrassed to show their faces, since as far as I know not only did the world not end, but my VCR's clock didn't even stop.
Minor league speeches did fill the weekend with a healthy dose of attacks on the ACLU, teachers' unions, the "myth" of church-state separation and feminists. But the most remarkable statements came from none other than Pat Robertson's wife, Dede Robertson, the chairman of the board of his own graduate school, Regent University. Mrs. Robertson warned that if we didn't get a new president to shape up the Supreme Court, we would soon have "sex in the streets."
Great just what we need! It takes me 45 minutes to drive 12 miles to work now. Copulating couples could easily add another 45 minutes. Maybe I really ought to join the Christian Coalition after all.