Yesterday, Pat Robertson lit up a corner of the Internet when a parent wrote in to ask what she should do about her 16-year-old son who just came out as gay, and Pat wondered if maybe her kid is gay because a coach molested him:
“Is there really a biological thing going on, or has he been influenced? Has a coach molested him?… These kids are in a formative state, and sure, they may have some attractions to people of the same sex—they don't know what they're doing, they're teenagers…”Disturbing and repugnant to be sure, but is anyone really all that surprised that Pat Robertson resorted to digging up a chestnut about gays having to "recruit" teens into homosexuality?
Meanwhile, over in another corner of the Internet, Tea Party star Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) just launched a new front in his War on Government Protecting Us From Bad Things by claiming that the Food & Drug Administration's decision last week to ban trans fats means the Feds are coming after your doughnuts. Except, or course, it turns out that most doughnut companies already stopped using trans fats and no one noticed the difference—and we should have all realized that our doughnuts aren't really being threatened because if they were, Chris Christie would be the one sounding the alarm, not Rand Paul. (No, that was not a "Chris Christie is fat" joke. It was a "Chris Christie likes to eat" joke. There's a subtle difference.)
How are these two stories connected? While everyone was pointing out Robertson's "ask your gay son if he was molested" comment, no one noticed his remarks on the same broadcast supporting the ban on
“I'm not a great fan of the FDA, I think they make some errors, but in this case, they need to get active and I'm for activism. I'm sure Mayor Bloomberg will be thrilled—he's getting criticized because of the ‘nanny state,’ but that's a good thing to do.”Now, some of you may be wondering, Wait a minute, I thought conservatives opposed "nanny-state" Big Government! Actually, like most religious conservatives, Robertson's all for Big Government—provided that the government imposes what HE wants on everyone's lifestyles. And not just forcing God and Jesus back onto public schoolchildren (like the good old days when Jews were ostracized and no one cared about Muslims and Buddhists because there were hardly any of them around back then anyway), and keeping you from using contraception because sex is just for procreation, don't'cha know. No, Robertson also wants to ban porn from the Internet, as it's not, he insists, free speech; prohibit tobacco (because prohibition worked so well with alcohol); and force food-stamp recipients to eat more healthfully, to cite just a few examples. The Religious Right is completely on board with a "nanny state"—so long as they're the ones playing nanny.
Okay, I don't really think that the American right wing is about to be torn asunder over trans fats and fictional doughnut bans. But as the Religious Right tries to make common cause with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—for instance, Pat Robertson's own Christian public-interest law firm is representing over 40 Tea Party groups in a lawsuit against the IRS—the differing approaches to the trans fat ban serves as a reminder that these two factions have philosophies that are fundamentally incompatible in many areas. And while libertarian Rand Paul might be fighting over the future of the Republican Party with moderate-conservative Chris Christie right now, in two years' time he may find himself outflanked on the right by an evangelical candidate like Rick Santorum.