You've probably heard that Bro. Pat Robertson, the reigning national champion bilker of the old, weak-minded, and otherwise vulnerable, is claiming that God told him in an exclusive one-on-one that President Bush is a lead-pipe cinch for re-election in November. You can tell Bro. Pat isn't a horse-race man, because the first lesson you learn at the track - and many of us have to keep re-learning it, the hard way, every time we go - is that there's no such thing as a sure thing. The second lesson you learn at the track is, Don't let anybody give you a hot tip. If someone tries to give you a hot tip - especially if it's supposed to be inside information, from an authoritative, highly placed source (and let's face it, God is about as authoritative and highly placed as they come - then the proper response is to take off running fast as you can in the other direction. Stop up your ears. Go on back home. Anything to avoid the tipster and his tips. This is practical wisdom, hard-gained over much time and involving much ruin. Anyway, I was just thinking about Bro. Pat's hot tip from On High about the 2004 presidential horserace, and wondering what he's going to think, and what he's going to say, if the unexpected happens, if George II's re-election hopes turn to wormwood as George I's did. Here are some of the possibilities: If he really and truly believes that God told him that Bush would win in a blowout, and Bush then loses in a blowout, or loses in a squeaker, or wins but has to get the Supreme Court to steal it for him again, then no way around it God will have been proved to be a liar. Or Bro. Pat will have to say, "Well, maybe God was mistaken." Except that God, being God, doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't say something and then come back later and say he was misquoted or come back later and issue a clarification. For instance, he doesn't claim to know about weapons of mass destruction and then come back later and say, "That was according to the best intelligence I had available at the time I said it." That might be better than an out-and-out lie, but not much better, and God is much too classy for such pettifoggery. Or Bro. Pat will have to say, "Well, maybe he just guessed wrong, as we all do at one time or another." Except that, whatever else God might do, he doesn't guess. Not even a God as loopy and frivolous as to have let himself be contrived by Bro. Pat could be accused of being a guesser - much less a bad guesser! - without some kind of serious blasphemy having been committed. Even in cartoonish televangelistic depictions of him, God has always known the future, and that fact has always given his prophets to wonder, "If he already knows how this turns out, what does he need me for?" Jonah was especially bitter thinking, "If he already knows whether or not it'll do any good, why do I have to go around haranguing these idiots to change their wicked ways? Why can't I just stay here under my gourd and meditate?" So Bro. Pat, in wondering what the deuce was going on with God's oopsie prediction, would be in the tradition of Job and Jonah, and that would probably make him feel better. Or Bro. Pat could say, "Well, God being God, he couldn't have been lying or mistaken or guessing or pettifogging, so maybe the fault here was mine. Maybe I misheard him. Maybe he put the word 'not' in there and I just didn't hear it. Maybe I was doing some wishful thinking while he was talking, and what he was saying and what I was thinking just got all mushed together into that bad prediction." Or he might decide that it wasn't really God he'd been conversing with. It sounded like God. It was the same voice that Bro. Pat was used to hearing when God promised him to change the course of tornadoes or heal tumors the size of watermelons in the intestines of large 700 Club contributors. But this time the voice must have been that of an imposter, probably Satan, who is said to do a very clever impersonation and who is known to be much more accessible to pious clowns. Or the imposter might have been a Democrat, one of those liberal comedians like Michael Moore or Al Franken, playing one of those hidden-microphone "dirty tricks" that get played in every election campaign. Shame on them if that was the case. It's hard to imagine Bro. Pat getting the sneaking suspicion that this whole stupid election-predicting business might have been just a case of God, for reasons known only to Himself, trying to make Bro. Pat look like a fool, and of course, being God, succeeding. But God works in mysterious ways, and Bro. Pat might just have to take his lumps and try to learn the lesson this episode obviously was meant to teach him. I wouldn't presume to fathom the Creator's intentions, but might that lesson be that God Almighty, the Ancient of Days, Maker of Heaven and Earth, doesn't particularly appreciate being portrayed as one who gets chummy enough with unctuous nincompoop mortals to chitchat with them about trivialities? This is much more a case of using his name in vain than mere cussing, and he might get a little sore about it, slightly bummed, and show it. Oh, and was I the only one modestly surprised that while he had God on the line there Bro. Pat didn't coax a blurb from Him for Mel Gibson 's movie, one perhaps stylistically suitable for use on the popular God Sez billboards? "This movie about my boy is the real deal. I give it a big thumbs up. Now playing at a theater near you. Don't miss it." - God.