These are triumphant hours for Pat Robertson. His standing as America's senior ayatollah is becoming firmer as Billy Graham and even Jerry Falwell yield the prime-time pulpit to the smooth-tongued maestro of the Christian Coalition.

A decade ago, CNN would sooner have given half an hour's air time to the leader of North Korea, but last week, Wolf Blitzer poked a stick through the bars and nodded respectfully as Robertson raved on about the End Time:

BLITZER: "Welcome to 'LATE EDITION,' Reverend ... "

REV. PAT ROBERTSON: "Thanks, Wolf."

BLITZER: " ... thanks very much for joining us.

"I want to get to Harriet Miers in a moment, but you're a minister. You see what's going on in the world today in Pakistan, in India, Afghanistan, an earthquake, maybe 20,000 people dead, maybe twice that number; we don't have a count. Hurricanes in the United States and around the world, a tsunami a little bit less than a year or so ago in Southeast Asia. What's happening?"

Robertson rose gracefully to the challenge:

"Wolf, I might say you're very perceptive to pick up the key in this. If you read back in the Bible, the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonia, he said that in the latter days before the end of the age that the Earth would be caught up in what he called the birth pangs of a new order. And for anybody who knows what it's like to have a wife going into labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit.

"I don't have any special word that says this is that, but it could be suspiciously like that. These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity."

Blizer wagged his head like a mental hospital attendant placating a noisy inmate, and then poked his stick through the bars again:

BLITZER: "But what does that mean? Explain that in more simplistic terms so I can understand what you're driving at?"

ROBERTSON: "Well, what was called the blessed hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know it would change into something that would be wonderful that we'd call the millennium. And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days, and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child."

More placatory nods from the hospital attendant:

BLITZER: "So you think we're at that moment right now perhaps?"

ROBERTSON: "It's possible, Wolf. I don't have any special revelation to say it is, but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be. "

BLITZER: "All right. Let's move on to something that we perhaps can understand a little bit better, which would be Harriet Miers ... "

After chiding James ("Focus on the Family") Dobson for hyperbolic language, Robertson closed out the interview a few minutes later by claiming that Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, whose assassination he had recently recommended, was building a nuclear arsenal and had sent Osama bin Laden a million dollars after 9/11.

The sobering part of all this is that all the same words could have come out the mouth of the president, whose relationship to Jesus and expectations of the End Time are probably more intense than Robertson's, since the latter is a seasoned professional rather than an inspired amateur.

Reagan used to talk about the End Time equably, too, once stressing that it could occur in "our lifetime." Journalists like Blitzer should raise the issue more frequently, both to ayatollahs of the Apocalypse like Robertson and to the president. It would give press conferences a certain gloomy zest.

The only mystery is why, given his Apocalyptic expectations, Robertson fusses about the threat of a Chavez and calls for his murder by the CIA. He surely cannot think that the Venezuelan leader will be spared the Lord's coming wrath, when the saved rise up in the great celestial spiral and the damned are consigned to the pit. Why ask the CIA to do what the Almighty will soon take care of?

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.