The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, May 19, 2003  

From the Right, Left, and Center

Excerpts from a few of the better commentaries on William Bennett's gambling problem.

William F. Buckley Jr., writing for what remains of National Review ("Bennett and His Enemies," May 13):

The sad business of William Bennett requires discouraging commentary. There is, first, the existential point, which is that Bill Bennett is through. We speak, of course, of his public life. He is objectively discredited. He will not be proffered any public post by any president into the foreseeable future. He will not publish another book on another virtue, if there is any he has neglected to write about. It is possible that the books written by him on the subject, sitting in bookstores, will work their way to the remainder houses. These are the consequences of the damage he has done to himself.

Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation ("Bah, Humbug," June 2, posted May 15):

Bennett's defenders make much of the fact that he never condemned gambling and so was not actually a hypocrite. Leaving your own pet vice off a long, long list of sins, and then, when you are found out, exempting that vice as practiced by you but not as practiced by others -- that's not exculpation from charges of hypocrisy, that's what hypocrisy is.

Frank Rich in the New York Times ("Tupac's Revenge on Bennett," May 17):

The puncturing of his dishonest public persona is a huge nail in the coffin of the disgraceful national culture wars in which he served as a particularly vicious commanding general during the 1980's and 1990's....

If Mr. Bennett's gambling has been, as he and his fans maintain, a victimless pastime, his career as both a public figure and government official has been anything but. To see how Mr. Bennett has victimized the public at large, the most instructive example is his shell game with the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the 1970s, he secured a $970,000 grant from its coffers for the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, of which he was then director. In the Reagan administration, he became the endowment's chairman. During the 90s, without missing a beat, he called for the endowment's abolition. Like public television, the humanities endowment helps, however imperfectly, to foster a culture to counter the violent movies and trashy afternoon talk shows Mr. Bennett purports to deplore. The agency gives money to projects like Ken Burns's "The Civil War" and the preservation of presidential papers. Mr. Bennett's campaign succeeded in knocking down its already tiny budget by a third.

And then there's this:

Mr. Bennett was hardly a scrupulous academic. In 1997, he wrote in [t]he Weekly Standard that "the best available research suggests that the average life span of male homosexuals is around 43 years of age."

Uh-oh. Just three years left. If I'm, uh, lucky.

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