Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Vote In The Poll - But Be Aware That Your Candidate Could Be Taken Out

Just to update you on the current poll, we have had a grand total of four voters so far which makes statistical reliability - even for this sort of poll - just about nil. I don't know if this is because you don't like any of the candidates, couldn't be bothered, or (as I suspect or at least hope) just haven't seen them. If you do have an opinion though, please vote.

Of course voting isn't necessarily a guarantee that your candidate will win or if he does win will be above attack from outside forces. Take President Hugo Chavez for example. He was elected in 1998 with a 56.2% majority and has resisted both an attempted military coup and a recall referendum (the vote in the latter was 59.25% of those who voted and there was a record turn out at the polls; the result was certified by two independent observing organizations). This is just to show that Chavez is popular amongst his own people even if his policies tend to irritate the United States. Which is what makes what follows at least a little noteworthy.

On his ABC Family Channel show, The 700 Club Pat Robertson stated that Chavez was going to make Venzuela "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent." He questioned the U.S. policy against assassination "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war" and stated that U.S. Special Forces should "take him out." He subsequently recanted his statement, say that he "didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should ‘take him out.’ And ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him." It doesn't really matter that he is on tape saying that they should assassinate him, even saying that he should be kidnapped constitutes an advocacy of terrorism. Although Chavez himself seems unconcerned (he said of Roberston that "I don't even know who he is") other people in his government are reacting, notable Vice President Jose Vincente Rangel who said "This is a huge hypocrisy to maintain an anti-terrorist line and at the same time have such terrorist statements as these made by Christian preacher Pat Robertson coming from the same country."

The reaction in Venezuela is understandable, and what you'd expect from any country. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if some figure from another country, even one with marginalized political position such as Jean-Marie la Pen of France, were to say that they should "take out" George W. Bush? Still, I frankly doubt that any action will be taken against Robertson. He is largely a marginal figure in Republican politics - a comedown from his position in 1988 when he was regarded as having a legitimate chance of winning the Republican nomination that eventually went to George H. W. Bush - and he has a history of making irresponsible statements. Still there is a point here (and it's even related to television). Robertson's show on the ABC Family Channel exists as a contractual obligation from the time when Robertson's own Christian Broadcasting Network owned it. The show, which might be marginalized in syndication and on the explicitly religious CBN. The fact is that if it weren't for television Roberston wouldn't have the power that he once had or even such power as he currently retains. With his 700 Club show Robertson gets an hour a week to expound on his views, and he doesn't even have to veil them with fictionalised presentations. How many people get that opportunity? The answer is precious few. Teddy Roosevelt once called the Presidency a "bully pulpit" - a way to have your views and your every action widely distributed and analysed. Teddy Roosevelt never encounter television. TV is the ultimate "bully pulpit" in that political statements that are broadcast, even if they aren't made by Presidents, Prime Ministers or Kings probably reach a greater percentage of the people than the newspapers that carried the political speeches of Roosevelt's day. As such, it is a platform with great power and as has often been said, with great power comes great responsibility. Time and again, Robertson has failed to use the power which being able to create a TV show and a TV network to put it on has given him, responsibly.

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