Monday, May 05, 2003

More Bennett: The conservative pundits are circling the wagons on Bennett. Usual suspects Jon Last and Jonah Goldberg, both writers I read and like, mention the ironic hypocrisy of the left: they'll all squeal in glee at Bennett's comeuppance, even though this surely falls within the Clintonian "private behavior" standard the left set. True enough, but that's simply a deflection or distraction. They also mention, in one way or another, that Bennett never claimed to be "perfect." Yes, true again. (Even if he had, we wouldn't have believed him.) But this, too, misses the point. Bennett has carped about everything from marijuana, which is illegal (even if it shouldn't be), to violent television, which is clearly legal -- so the "gambling is legal" defense is meaningless.

Moreover, in the words of Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN):

Gambling weakens our ability to teach our children the basics, if you will, the Cal Ripken values of hard work, patience, human achievement and personal responsibility. What is the message being sent to our children by clever television and radio commercials for lotteries that bombard us with the message that wealth is only a play away? It says that if you play enough you can hit the jackpot and be freed of the discipline of self support through a job or a long commitment to ongoing education. This same erosion of personal responsibility is at the heart of family dysfunctions, drug abuse, criminal behavior and abortion. We cannot tolerate the get rich symbolism of gambling, of pleading with our children to avoid other tosses of the dice that lead to unhealthy living and destructive behavior. [Emphasis added.]
That kind of sounds like Bennett could've written it. That's not to say that Bennett should take responsibility for everyone who uses his "voice of moral authority" style. But it certainly means that people within the mainstream, in fact some of Bennett's ideological allies, think this is a moral issue. And in doing so, they bring the same sort of "virtue pressure" that Bennett uses to push his issues. Conservative voices like National Review and the Weekly Standard need to acknowledge that fact before defending Bennett. Yes, the left will act like Bennett got caught with a joint between his fingers outside a nudie club in the tenderloin; but the right is already acting like Bennett got caught ripping the "Do Not Remove" tag from his mattress.

It's easy enough for Bennett to say that, while mindful of moral arguments like Lugar's, he respectfully disagrees. But other people respectfully (and otherwise) disagree with Bennett on issues such as the supposed effects of TV violence and sex on children. It doesn't seem to affect his crusade at all. Go figure.

More: Mysterious non-Volokh Philippe de Croy is more succinct.

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