As much as the mainstream media like Rudy Giuliani’s liberal viewpoints on abortion and homosexuality, a panel on CNN’s "The Situation Room" were divided on the issue of Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. Jack Cafferty, who won MRC’s "Tin Foil Hat Award for Crazy Conspiracy Theories" last year, labeled Robertson as being part of a "lunatic fringe" and opined that the endorsement was "absolutely irrelevant." On the other hand, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin thought the Robertson/Giuliani alliance was a "big deal."
Cafferty and Toobin, along with host Wolf Blitzer and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger discussed the endorsement at the bottom of the 6 pm Eastern hour. Blitzer introduced the roundtable discussion by highlighting the possible "mixed blessing" of Robertson. "While the value of Pat Robertson's endorsement is clearly debatable, he has tended to hitch his wagon to winners in the Republican primary."
Blitzer then introduced the panel, and directed the first question to Cafferty, who took the opportunity to not only criticize Robertson, but also go on one of his rants about the Iraq war.
BLITZER: Pat Robertson, Jack, endorsing Rudy Giuliani. What do you make of this?
JACK CAFFERTY: Well, he characterized himself as a leader of the Christian right. He's a member of the lunatic fringe, if he's even a member of that community anymore. Pat Robertson has become a joke. He also said that hurricanes would descend on Orlando, Florida because gays and lesbians attended Gay Day at Disney World. The man is -- as far as I'm concerned, he has no business in the national political debate. But even more troubling, why would you even accept the endorsement of this guy? And why are we not talking about getting the hell out of Iraq? I mean we're talking the same old stuff -- talk about abortion, talk about gay rights. These are wedge issues. They have nothing to do with the overriding problems that confront this country. And this whole dialogue between these two guys, as far as I'm concerned, is absolutely irrelevant.
Toobin immediately countered Cafferty’s assessment of the Robertson endorsement.
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think it's irrelevant at all. I mean, Rudy Giuliani has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices like John Roberts and Sam Alito. That's good enough for Pat Robertson. That's why he got the nomin... that's why he got the endorsement. I think it's a big deal. I think it's very good news for Giuliani. And, you know, it just shows how much Giuliani has changed from guy who used to live with a gay couple here in New York.
Blitzer then asked for Borger’s take on this development. She saw it as part of Giuliani’s primary election strategy, but saw that the endorsement might "backfire" during the general presidential race due to the question of Giuliani’s "authenticity" on the abortion and homosexual issues.
BLITZER: Gloria, some would suggest it's not necessarily good news for Rudy Giuliani because he has appealed to Republicans and independents and moderates who do support abortion rights, do support gay rights. And this endorsement by Pat Robertson could turn them off, especially in a state like New Hampshire, where those independents and moderates play a very important role.
BORGER: Well, first of all, this is something that Giuliani wasn't just offered. This is something that Giuliani went after. Other Republicans were going after Pat Robertson. And he went after it because he wanted to say, look, how can you Evangelical Christians have any doubts about me when Pat Robertson thinks I'm okay on the issues, particularly in the war on terror? So, you know, this is -- this is really something that Giuliani decided to do as a primary election strategy. Wolf, in the general election is where I think it could really backfire. Not only will he have to continue to explain away future mistakes that Pat Robertson may make somewhere along the campaign trail, but when the question of authenticity comes up in a general election -- which it will -- what do you believe, what do you stand for, what do you care about, how is he going to answer questions about abortions and -- abortion and gay rights?
As you might expect, Blitzer played clips of Robertson’s controversial comments on Hugo Chavez and Ariel Sharon. This solicited a response from Toobin in which he characterized Giuliani as the "only candidate who is remotely close to the center."
BLITZER: You know, Jeff -- I know Jeff wants to weigh in, but before you weigh in, I want to play a couple of clips of what Pat Robertson has said in the past about Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader, and Ariel Sharon, who's still in coma, the Israeli -- the former Israeli prime minister. Listen to this.
PAT ROBERTSON: You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop.
Now, Ariel Sharon who is, again, a very likable person -- a delightful person to be with -- you know, I've prayed with him personally. But here he's at the point of death. He was dividing God's land. And I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course.
BLITZER: Now, he apologized for both of those comments later. But, Jeff Toobin, are those the kind of statements that Rudy Giuliani really wants to be associated with, even indirectly like this?
TOOBIN: He doesn't have to defend Pat Robertson. What he has to do is keep the Evangelicals divided -- as they've been divided among the other candidates -- among Thompson, among Romney, and even McCain. He's -- he is the only candidate who is remotely close to the center. But the thing is, there's no one who is going to push him on that side. There is no one closer to the center. That's -- the party is so conservative at this point, as long as he can be the left-most candidate, keeping the rest of the race scrambled is good for him.
Come again? How can Giuliani be "remotely close to the center" if his stances on abortion and homosexuality are identical to Hillary Clinton’s? Toobin was closer to the truth when he said Rudy is the "left-most candidate" in the Republican presidential field.