When we learned Wednesday that Pat Robertson would be endorsing Rudy Giuliani, we somehow resisted the temptation to ask whether the former mayor agreed with the preacher's suggestion that 9/11 was God's punishment for America's secular ways.
Others -- including the Family Research Council -- lacked our self-control, and Giuliani has now been forced to answer the question. He is quoted in the State of South Carolina as saying that Robertson "explained" his comments "a long time ago," adding: "I've had to explain lots of comments of mine."
So what's the "explanation" Giuliani has in mind?
Let's back up a minute. On an episode of Robertson's "700 Club" two days after 9/11, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said that "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them ... helped make [the attacks] happen." Robertson's response: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system."
When those comments came under attack, Robertson's people issued a statement saying that Robertson hadn't "fully understood" what Falwell was saying and suggesting that he didn't agree with Falwell's effort to place the blame on "certain segments of the population." But that statement reiterated Robertson's core point: Unless America were to "come in repentance before God," he would "lift the protective covering that has graced our land since its founding." And as Greg Sargent notes at TPM's Election Central, Robertson was still pushing the terrorist-attack-as-God's-retribution argument -- particularly with respect to abortion rights -- as recently as September 2005.
The upshot: It sounds to us like both Robertson and Giuliani still have some "explaining" to do. Does Giuliani believe that Americans have repented? Does he believe that God has "lifted the protective covering"? Does he think the United States ought to assassinate Hugo Chavez? Does he agree that God struck down Ariel Sharon?
Oh, and while you're explaining, Mr. Mayor, how 'bout that Bernie Kerik?