Of course, televangelist Pat Robertson says lots of strange things. The host of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s program, The 700 Club has drawn criticism for such absurd statements as his claim that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish America for leaglized abortion as well as his 2003 suggestion that State Department headquarters should be blown-up with a nuclear weapon.
Given that background, it must be particularly painful for President Obama when Pat Roberson is congratulated for speaking out sensibly on an issue which Obama is too timid to address. Beyond that, when Robertson asserts a position which is supported by clear-thinking, prominent members of society, it must be particularly embarrassing for a President who has abdicated the “bully pulpit”.
Pat Robertson turned some heads in March, when he spoke out in favor of marijuana legalization. Jesse McKinley of The New York Times discussed the reaction to a pro-legalization statement made by Robertson during a broadcast of The 700 Club:
Mr. Robertson’s remarks were hailed by pro-legalization groups, who called them a potentially important endorsement in their efforts to roll back marijuana penalties and prohibitions, which residents of Colorado and Washington will vote on this fall.
“I love him, man, I really do,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law enforcement officials who oppose the drug war. “He’s singing my song.”
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Mr. Franklin, who is a Christian, said Mr. Robertson’s position was actually in line with the Gospel. “If you follow the teaching of Christ, you know that Christ is a compassionate man,” he said. “And he would not condone the imprisoning of people for nonviolent offenses.”
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And while Mr. Robertson said his earlier hints at support for legalization had led to him being “assailed by those who thought that it was terrible that I had forsaken the straight and narrow,” he added that he was not worried about criticism this time around.
“I just want to be on the right side,” he said. “And I think on this one, I’m on the right side.”
It appears as though Pat Robertson is on the right side of another issue, with his recent comment about the Obama Justice Department’s failure to prosecute those responsible for causing the financial crisis. While reading a great posting on Washington’s Blog about institutional corruption, I encountered a link to a piece by James Crugnale of the Mediaite blog, which focused on Robertson’s praise of Iceland for prosecuting its banksters and setting an example for countries such as the United States:
“Guess what country is getting itself out of a financial problem by some draconian measures?” Robertson asked his co-host Terry Meeuwsen. “Greece?” she asked. “No, not even close. Iceland!” Robertson exclaimed. “They are putting people in jail. Prime ministers are being indicted. They are going after banks. The people said the banks are ripping us off. We don’t like what they did, and they brought our country to ruin. Suddenly, Iceland is turning around and they look like a big success story!”
“Think we could learn something?” Meeuwsen asked.
“We sure could!” Roberson continued. “We could start putting all of those bankers in jail. There was not one banker prosecuted and so many people were lying, and so-called “no-doc loans” and liars’ loans, and none of them have been held accountable. I’m not for putting people in jail. I’m sick of these – we’ve got too many penalties. Too many penalties, too many criminal sanctions, too many people in prison. But here is an opportunity for the people who wanted, you know, to enforce laws, to enforce that one. There must be some laws against lying on documents. I’m sure there are.”
“Lying to banks is a super no-no,” he added. “It has criminal sanctions, but nobody so far has had to pay the price, but Iceland is leading the way and their GDP is growing, and all of a sudden, they were in a terrible mess, terrible mess, and look what is happening!”
With the release of the Department of Labor’s non-farm payrolls report for April, attention is again being focused on the issue of whether President Obama did enough to help the country recover from the financial crisis. As the aforementioned Washington’s Blog essay made clear, the institutional corruption facilitated by the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the culprits who caused the financial meltdown has brought even more harm to the American economy. Consider this passage from the Washington’s Blog piece:
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:
The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going on.
I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That’s the point. There were victims all over the world.
Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties.
Think about it: Joe Stiglitz and Pat Robertson are on the same page, while President Obama is somewhere else. Yikes!