That great arbiter of American morals, Michael Kinsley, has announced that Bill Bennett is a hypocrite. Joshua Micah Marshall, understudy to Clinton flak Sydney Blumenthal, agrees. Many of the Clinton Defense League have emerged from their war-induced slumbers to try and get some knocks in on Bennett, one the sharpest scolds of the disgraced former president.
The Bennett gambling story has a lot of angles, and two concern me most.
First, the wildly amusing fuming of the lefties is understandable. They wish to silence Bennett because he’s been unsparing in his critique of the Clinton era and its legacies among the Democrats. The scribblers of the left have brought out their MOAB – the charge of hypocrisy. To effectively fling that charge, however, requires some sort of moral standard, and such a standard was suspended by these same judges for Clinton, against whom plausible allegations of rape were laid and never rebutted, and whose lying under oath and sexual harassment are no longer even debated by his closest colleagues. Oh yes, let’s not forget Marc Rich. It is hard to see the reintroduction of a moral critique by any Clinton loyalist as anything except, well, hypocrisy.
Second, Bennett is a pugilist, and he’s taken on the toughest of the Clinton thugs over the years. Keep in mind how much they hate him. Now he has given them the proverbial sword, and they are using it with glee. Some and probably most of his allies over the years are dismayed by his gambling, but that’s not a license for amnesia either. To stay silent a while or to remind the mob of services rendered would seem to me much more appropriate than piling on at a moment of vulnerability.
To remind the late arrivals to the battles, Bennett has been there from the beginning of the Reagan Revolution and helped steel the country to follow the great man – helped contribute to the strength of an administration that deployed the Pershings and the cruise missiles, hung tough in the face of the Freeze fanatics, and ultimately brought the Evil Empire to its knees.
Joshua Micah Marshall was in short pants for those battles, which is lucky for him since Kinsley et al., were simply on the wrong side of most of those engagements. After leading the National Endowment for the Humanities and Education Department, Bennett took the most thankless job in D.C. – and one of the most dangerous as well – that of drug czar. When he left public life, he did write incredibly successful books and command incredibly high speaking fees. He did so after honorable public service, not after trashing his office and his oath.
Bennett’s an “in the arena” kind of guy, and his smarts made him one that the left feared. He’s too prepared for 95 percent of them, and he has refused to be intimidated by the pseudo-intellects of the academic groves. Bennett has tossed aside the likes of Carville and Begala like mosquitoes for more than a decade. That is quite a lot of service rendered.
Now he’s in a jam, and a few of the members of the center-right coalition want to use the occasion to make a few points of their own. I don’t know Bennett well, but he was one of the generals in a grand and good effort to repair the awful legacy of the ’60s, to recover from the collapse of American prestige and position brought about by Carter, and to help stem the tide of Clintonism. That’s two decades of effort requiring enormous will at home and a vision of the good fight abroad as well. The left is trying to discount both his effort and the grander cause he served.
Bennett’s most recent service is to remind us by the specifics of his story of the truly awful character of Clinton as compared to other human flaws. It won’t be his last.