Pat Robertson is on a tear again.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, the controversial TV preacher is predicting an imminent war in the Middle East that may result in nuclear attacks on coastal cities in the United States.
"In a letter on his Web site, www.patrobertson.com, Robertson said his opinion was that Israel would bomb Iranian nuclear sites between Nov. 4 and the inauguration of the United States' new president," the newspaper reported. "Robertson tied his warning to biblical prophesy."
Russia, Robertson said, will jump into the war, and things will quickly get very out of hand.
"It all will conclude," he added, "when God has rained fire on the islands of the sea and on the invading force coming against Israel."
Reporter Steve Vegh said a version of the letter was sent in September to members of Regent University, the Virginia Beach school that Robertson founded and serves as president.
"We have between 75 and 120 days before the Middle East starts spinning out of control," Robertson wrote. "If there was ever a time for fervent prayer, it is now."
This isn't Robertson's first venture into grim prophecies about world events. Fortunately, many of his predictions have failed.
As Americans United staffer Rob Boston told The Virginian-Pilot, Pat's prognostications often fail to come true.
"I guess he believes he has a direct pipeline to God," said Boston. "Given the number of false predictions he's given, I might question who's at the other end of that pipeline."
Boston, in his book The Most Dangerous Man in America?, noted some of Pat's spectacular failures.
Robertson in 1981 predicted a "worldwide economic debacle of unprecedented magnitude." It didn't happen. He "guaranteed" that a 1982 "Tribulation" would be sparked by a Russian invasion of Israel. It didn't happen.
His more recent predictions are often similarly skewed.
On Jan. 3, 2005, after spending "a wonderful time of prayer," Robertson went on his "700 Club" program to say, "The Lord had some very encouraging news for George Bush. What I heard [from God] was that Bush is now positioned to have victory after victory and that his second term is going to be one of triumph, which is pretty strong stuff."
Ummm, the Bush second term hasn't ended yet, but it's not looking like one of triumph.
In January of 2007, Robertson predicted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil involving nuclear weapons that would kill millions. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Those who follow Robertson's predictions say they fall into three categories: safe bets (such as claims that there will be continued strife in the world), the spectacularly wrong and the occasional random hit. (Hey, even a Magic 8-Ball may give you good advice some of the time.)
Acknowledging the failed prediction of the 2007 nuclear attack, Robertson told his audience, "So did I miss it? Possibly. Or, on the other hand, did God avert it? Possibly. But whatever, it didn't happen, so I think we can all rejoice."
Here's the bottom line: No one questions Robertson's constitutional right to engage in this kind of scary speculation. But the rest of us also have a constitutional right to question his judgment and his continuing role in American political life. Events in the Middle East are often frightening. Doesn't it make violence in that unstable and war-weary region more likely when a prominent and influential American religious figure says things like this?
With the advent of the Internet and the worldwide communications revolution, Robertson's words can be instantly read by people around the planet, including overseas leaders who think Robertson has a close relationship with the "faith-based" Bush administration.
Why in heaven's name, do American elected officials and political leaders still regard Robertson as someone they should do business with, when his track record is so reckless and wrong-headed? Presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney both dropped by in 2007 seeking Pat's blessing. And Giuliani appeared at a press conference with Robertson when the endorsement came through.
Is this latest outburst enough to cause the folks in Washington to stop going on Robertson's show and inviting him into the counsels of government?
It certainly ought to be.