When Bob McDonnell is sworn into office as governor tomorrow, one of his most steadfast supporters will be there too: Religious Right leader Pat Robertson, fresh off of his recent comments about Haiti. Rather than being a fringe element, Robertson’s presence will be a vivid illustration of how the Religious Right movement remains deeply influential in today’s GOP.
Robertson’s connections to McDonnell extend back decades to when McDonnell earned a degree from Robertson’s Regent University School of Law with a 1989 thesis on putting Religious Right dogma into law. Soon thereafter, McDonnell won his first elective office with the backing of the Christian Coalition, which was founded by Robertson. More recently Robertson and his family members donated tens of thousands of dollars to McDonnell’s 2009 gubernatorial campaign, and tomorrow, Robertson will be at McDonnell’s inauguration.
According to McDonnell, the invitation for Robertson to attend the inauguration still stands even after Robertson’s comments blaming the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti on a ‘pact to the devil” made by Haitians in the 19th century to gain independence.
But why should McDonnell have a change of heart now?
After all, he didn’t distance himself from Robertson after the televangelist joined Jerry Falwell in blaming 9-11 on political opponents including People for the American Way. Nor did McDonnell seem bothered by Robertson’s comments that Muslims should be treated like ‘some fascist group,” that gays are ‘on their way to hell,” or that hate crimes legislation would protect someone ‘who likes to have sex with ducks.” McDonnell’s invitation to Robertson came years after he claimed that non-Christian religions worship ‘demonic powers,” that marriage equality is ‘so gross” it will lead to an end of our nation, that the separation of church and state is ‘insane,” and that Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke because he was ‘dividing God’s land.” And, of course, who could forget Robertson’s advice to the GOP on handling Rep. Mark Foley’s sexual relationship with a minor: just say that it is ‘what gay people do so don’t worry about it.”
This isn’t even the first time he’s found natural disasters to be convenient platforms from which to attack his political enemies: the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was the result of Senators’ support for Roe v. Wade during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for John Roberts; and destructive ice storms, according to Robertson, were God’s punishment for hosting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Tomorrow, when Bob McDonnell is sworn in, Pat Robertson will be looking on. He’ll probably be smiling. And why shouldn’t he? His protégé is about to become governor of Virginia.