Discussion of Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani has conveniently ignored the fact that Robertson is a controversial, extreme figure even among conservatives. What we really need to consider is what this will mean for the tone of next year's election.
It has become a familiar ritual: highly ideological political actor says something shocking or controversial; media demand that establishment figures of the same political stripe repudiate the remarks; the other side attacks the establishment figures for their tolerance of extremists in their midst.
We sometimes think of local governments in strongly progressive communities as ineffective nearly to the point of being comical. While potholes go unfilled, the collection of aging hippies on the town council debates passionately how they're going to respond to the crises in Darfur or Burma, and whether the town should retain a chakra consultant. This is a caricature, sure, but it contains more than a little truth.
MSNBC debate moderator Tim Russert speaks to the audience before the Democratic debate on Sept. 26 in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama:
"There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?"
Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative Democrat running for president, the right makes her out to be a radical. Perhaps this is because the right still fears the social change hippies represented.
A specter is haunting the 2008 presidential campaign. It is a terrifying beast that walks through mud, dances to eerie music, wears strange garments, and copulates wantonly. It smells vaguely of patchouli.
I speak, of course, of the hippie.
Or rather, the conservative image of the hippie, grafted onto a woman who could barely have been less countercultural back in the times when the actual species roamed the Earth: Hillary Clinton. If you thought we'd get through this campaign without the people who were too square to be down with the scene in the 1960s once again venting their resentment at their cooler peers, think again. But this time around, it's even less likely to work than it has in the past.
Last night, Mike Huckabeewas interviewed on ABC News, and he gave this standard-issue tribute to our nation's uniqueness:
I still remember my father taking me to meet the governor of Arkansas when I was eight years old. And he said, "Son, you may live your whole life, and you may never get to meet a governor in person." And to think that, you know, his son could become one. Only in America."
It's a wonderful thing that in our country, a person born to modest circumstances can rise to become a political leader, governor of a state and perhaps even president. But the idea that this is possible "only in America" is just ridiculous.