CBN's Pat Robertson: White House Next?

Article excerpt


The Post has for some months been hearing a rustling among the grass roots in the land. It centers on an unusual man-- a broadcaster, a lawyer, an economist, a theologian, a businessman-- named Pat Robertson, the president of a burgeoning communications-education complex grouped around the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The rustling--gentle but persistent--usually takes the form of a question, or perhaps two questions run together. They go something like this: "What is Pat Robertson going to do next? Do you think he'll one day run for president?' The Post found that, often, the questions pop up in discussions about successors to Ronald Reagan. Furthermore, the Post found that the questioners are serious.

To learn more about the substance of this rustling and about the man himself, we talked with a number of influential people who know him well, from Maine to California, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

"I give Pat Robertson high marks in a lot of different areas,' said Bert Lance, a Democratic kingmaker in his home state of Georgia and a man of considerable national clout since his days with the Carter administration. "I think he's a fine, fine individual.'

Lance was particularly struck by the importance of communications and television today, which he felt would be a plus for Robertson if he were to try his hand at presidential politics. "Something awfully important has happened,' he said. "One reason that political parties aren't as functional now as they used to be is that they have lost a very basic element . . . the control of the flow of information to the party members. This information used to go through the precinct organization and up and down through the state organization and so on. Well, they've lost that. It is now controlled by the media and by the Congressmen, writing their own constituencies.

"The same thing has happened to the labor unions. The unions made sure that you got your information through the union. When they lost that ability, they lost their basic power. Now the one group in the country that controls the flow of information to its constituence is the television evangelicals.

"Television is the media today and affects the political process. You have to be good on television in order to be elected. That's where we are. There's a lot of people who would vote for him [Robertson], and you know he's from the right part of the country [Virginia]. It's all very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd find positive feedback about him.'

Sam Moore, chief executive officer of the Thomas Nelson publishing empire, including Dodd, Mead of New York, was enthusiastic. "He'd make a fantastic President! He's a godly man, a smart man, a good businessman, an attorney, and has enough experience to run any business or any facet of the country. He knows how to get things done, and he's a man of integrity, too. He can have my vote any day.'

John Exter, a former vice president of the Federal Reserve and a professor of economics at Harvard, agreed. "I would vote for him,' he said. He was especially keen on Robertson's television abilities as reflected on the "700 Club' news-magazine show. But, he said, "He is a lot of other things, too. He is an extraordinary man.'

His major reservation, it appeared, was Robertson's openness regarding his faith. He concluded, however: "I am the kind of person who can swallow all that religion when I see his understanding of economics.'

Paul Weyrich, one of Washington's leading conservative movers and shakers, was quick to verify the rustling the Post had picked up. "There is literally a grass-roots movement to make this happen,' he said, "which Pat has not shown any inclination to abet. If I thought Pat wouldn't repudiate it, I'd lead a draft movement.'

He explained his enthusiasm this way: "I've never seen so much unity among such a wide variety of people who normally don't agree on a candidate. …