Rudy Giuliani, the self-described pro-choice, pro-gay rights presidential candidate, aggressively sought and won the endorsement of Pat Robertson, a televangelist with a decades-long record of extremism and offensive attacks on women, feminists, gay people, liberals, and non-Christians.
But what appears to be a political odd couple may in fact be the perfect marriage of expedience and hypocrisy in pursuit of political power and influence.
Giuliani, seeking to shore up his support among conservative evangelical voters, seems to be simply counting votes without counting the cost of granting credibility to a figure who doesn't deserve it. He's been headed down this road for a while. In pursuit of social conservative voters, Giuliani has already backpedaled from previously held pro-equality positions. And he has dramatically weakened his "pro-choice" position by pledging to give us more Supreme Court justices in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito -- justices who would almost certainly move to make reproductive rights (and maybe gay rights) a thing of the past.
The pledge to turn our highest Court over to the far right hasn't been enough to win other Religious Right figures like James Dobson and Tony Perkins, who said at their recent "Values Voter Summit" that they could not and would not vote for Giuliani. But polls show that Giuliani does have significant support among white evangelicals -- and with Robertson's help he might build his support among voters who see the Court's new far-right justices as the best legacy of the Bush presidency.
Anyone who has watched Robertson's drive for political power and influence cannot be all that surprised by the endorsement. He seems to have made a calculation that Giuliani is the most likely candidate in a weak GOP field to beat Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic nominee in a year where early signs show strength for Democrats in the presidential race. And he wants to preserve his own influence by backing a winner.
After years of telling the world that God would bring his wrath down on our nation for providing reproductive choice to women and granting rights and freedoms to gay and lesbian Americans, after years of demanding that his followers go to the ballot box and base their votes on those issues, Robertson may have some explaining to do with his devoted followers.
At a press conference announcing his endorsement, Robertson mentioned the courts as uppermost in the minds of social conservatives, but he himself cited the need to protect Americans from the "bloodlust of Islamic terrorists" and the need to tackle government waste and deficits as the most important issues facing the country.
But it hasn't been government waste that has filled Robertson's coffers and fueled his backers over the years. It's been Robertson's divisive and destructive mixing of religion in politics, claiming to speak on behalf of God and threatening divine retribution on those who disagree with his political agenda, particularly on the issues of abortion and gay rights.
In the current political climate it may be too much to hope for an election year focused on the nation's ideals, and what we need to do to build the kind of country that reflects them. Unfortunately, it seems likely that today's alliance between Giuliani and Robertson foreshadows more campaigning that shamelessly exploits our fears and prejudices rather than building on our hopes and dreams.