Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 3, 2003
POLITICS: Snake Eyes

I never thought much of Bill Clinton's cry of "politics of personal destruction" whenever he got caught abusing the powers of his office. But personal attacks really can get out of hand sometimes. Josh Marshall ran a teaser that turned out to be a little smoke but not much fire: Bill Bennett likes to gamble. And he's probably lost a lot of money doing it. But there's no claim that he's got any of the serious problems we associate with gamblers, like tax trouble, debts he can't pay, etc. More like a Michael Jordan-type gambling issue: he loses money other people couldn't afford to lose.

This seems like a pathetically weak case for calling 'hypocrite' to me, which makes this really nothing but the exposure of a man's private life for no useful purpose. At worst, it suggests that Bennett has pulled punches on this particular vice because he doesn't see it as that bad, perhaps in part because he enjoys it.

But what's really sickening about investing major investigative resources and running this kind of story is the idea that you can discredit the entire notion of morality by showing that individuals who speak out for moral standards are, in fact, sinners themselves. Bennett never said he was perfect; if only perfect people could speak up for right over wrong, wrong would have the floor to itself. There are people who wish that were so. But I would have hoped that a seemingly reasonable guy like Marshall wouldn't be one of them.

UPDATE: Marshall defends his position, complete with putting the word "morality" in scare quotes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:08 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

But Bennett wasted much investigative resource and two books to try and point out Bill Clinton's picadillos. To say what? - that Clinton ain't perfect?

I think its amazing to point out. If a Democrat wrote a book called "Book of Virtues" and "Death of Outrage" and then was caught with millions in gambling debts, you don't think, maybe somebody on the right would point it out. And you don't think you'd laugh.

There's a vast difference between atempted impeachment and a column in the Washington Monthly. Just a little.

I don't think. Maybe if Bennett married a homosexual dog owned by his brother in Santorum's [sp?] home town, then we'd have a REAL issue?

:)

Go Mariners

Posted by: Andrew | BYTE BACK at May 3, 2003 1:49 PM

Perjury is not a "picadillo." I'm a litigator myself, and witnesses fudging and shading the truth is one thing; outright stonewalling and lying and tampering with other witnesses is another.

Bennett spent his own money he could afford to spend, didn't harm his family, didn't break the law.

Posted by: The Crank at May 3, 2003 9:36 PM

If my memory serves me correctly, Bennett also said that the adultery itsself put Clintons leadership into question.

I haven't read much of Bennetts writing but if Marshall is correct when he says that Bennett was

"also a prime advocate of the proposition that there is an unbroken thread connecting our private habits to our public selves and that we -- the media, the chatterers, everyone -- should happily pull on that thread and see what we find. "

it makes it relevant.

I also think that the fact that Bennett lied about his losses is relevent. One of that hallmarks of a addict is denial of the consequences. I don't know if Bennett is an addict, there isn't enough information in the article to tell either way.

What do you mean by "scare quotes"?

I assumed that Marshall put the word morality in quotes because the morality that Bennett advocates might not line up with Marshalls idea of morality (issues like, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, abortion and drug use could be viewed very differently).

Posted by: Ivan at May 4, 2003 11:23 PM

It's also worth noting that Bennett is no longer in public office and not likely to return. That hardly makes him a private figure, but it does change the calculus. Even among public figures, I've long believed that much more scrutiny should attach to the president than to, say, a member of Congress, because the nature of our trust in the president personally must be so much higher. I wouldn't object to running the same story if it was about Bush or Cheney, although I'd still think it was not a huge issue. The problem with Clinton, of course, was that everywhere you looked, you always found more. If Gennifer Flowers had been the extent of the adultery, the issue would have blown over.

Posted by: The Crank at May 5, 2003 4:49 AM
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