Birds of a feather stick together

Birds of a feather stick together
: Andrew Sullivan is so frigging predictable. I stopped reading him through the war. Just tried starting again. But he’s as precitable as Oprah. Boring.

When William Bennett, right-wing moralizer, is questioned for his $8-million gambling habit, Sullivan leaps to the defense of a fellow Republican:

He has done nothing hypocritical. Only in the minds of a few religious fanatics, has he done anything immoral.

Oh, come on. The guy was caught with his pants down and his wallet in them. He preaches moderation as a virtue. Immoderation would then be… oh, what?… a sin?

That wouldn’t be newsworthy in the slightest, Andrew, except that this moralizer preached to all the rest of us what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

Preach in glass houses….

  • Define “moderation,” please.
    “Moderation,” it seems to me, is a relative term. (Well, I guess by definition it is, as well.)
    Are you whacking Bennett for gambling too much? For losing too much? Again, relative to what…?
    And, apparently, he has never tried to hide his habit. Check out this post at Junk Yard Blog for some history:

  • You want me to get on a moral high horse? Fine, I can do that, too.
    Eight million dollars! Think what good could be done with that money. Try charity under any definition. You want to preach virtue? You want to hold everyone else to a standard of virtue? That would be virtue.
    Clearly the guy has a huge problem. Just admit it. He needs help. You’re only enabling his very bad habit.

  • Yeah, I agree; $8 million is a boatload of cash. We can agree on the numerator.
    What I don’t know is the denominator, and I doubt that you can edify me on this, but if you can, I’m happy to learn. Do you know how much Bennett gave to charity over that same time period? What % of his income did this represent?
    God only asks for 10%…

  • Rochefoucauld called hipocracy “the tribute vice pays to virtue”.
    Something to think about.

  • elly

    He’s guilty of being immoderate? If so, then who isn’t? Using this as your criterion, even if he didn’t gamble you could still get him for having second helpings of dessert. More to the point would be to ask whether Bennett rails against GAMBLERS specifically. If not, I don’t see how he can fairly be called hypocritical.
    As far as I can see, Bennett has broken no laws and has not harmed anyone else. He earned his money, so why shouldn’t he be free to do with it what he wishes? If he had invested the money he lost gambling in dotcom stocks, or torn it into little pieces, would you still be attacking him? I’m Australian, so I have no great interest in Bennett, but this story sounds to me like a beat-up by people desperate to score points off someone they dislike.

  • Van der Leun

    I’ve got no brief for or against Bennett, but this is pretty thin soup they’ve brewed.
    Eight million lost? Eight million wagered?
    Gambling a vice? I don’t like it but it seems to me to be a legal activity in the states mentioned.
    Naw, Jeff, I’m with you on a lot of things but this is just a big bag of nothing.
    It doesn’t even rise to hypocrisy.

  • Catherine

    I think it is funny, Jeff, that you are so angry because you think this man tells you what to do, yet you think you should tell him what to do with his money.
    I never considered myself preached by someone who writes books with compilations of essays on virtues. To be fair, he does include a section about moderation, but again, it would depend on his wealth wouldn’t it? If he chose betting over working then I would say there is a problem. If he couldn’t pay his bills or if he were deeply in debt then I would say he has a problem and is immoderate. I mean, my vicar smokes, does that make him less virtuous?
    This whole things smells of witch-hunt and “gotcha.” I don’t think Newsweek bled this kind of ink when Jesse Jackson was caught using “Rainbow Coalition” money to pay off the mother of his out of wedlock child (he’s married). It merited a “newsmaker” paragraph. Bennett is a minor public figure and unelected. For them to take this much time looking for documents on a guy at his level seems bizarre.
    This is a non-story and should go in the National Enquirer.

  • Sean

    I, for one, prefer my pundits unpredictable. Like my coffee.

  • Carman Deed

    We have gambling in every just about every state, our state runs ads for it, famous people gamble, churches do it. I think you’re saying that even though what he did is legal, it’s not a virtue by virtue of the AMOUNT he gambles.
    If you’re telling him (and Andrew, and us) he can’t write books about virtue and lose $8 million, you need to tell HOW MUCH HE CAN LOSE and still write, so he’ll know. $1 million? Still too much? $100,000? A fixed percentage rather than a fixed amount?
    You’re kinda leaving us dangling on this one.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    I don’t see what all the fuss is. Bennett says that gambling is something that should be avoided…he lost 8 million bucks, he knows what he’s talking about.
    Now if Bennett went around spitting on and insulting gamblers while happily wagering away himself, that is a different story.

  • The same Bennett who as Secretary of Education lauded the works of Federal bureacrats while ladling out the cash incentive awards for jobs well done. Until he focused on his later scam as right-wing anti-Federal-spending scold.
    That worked so well he saw an opening as a morality-salesman, pocketing big bucks for pointing out America’s moral failures.
    Like most of his ilk, he’s merely a hustler and an opportunist, selling tripe to the gullible while laughing all the way to the bank. There’s no substance there – never has been.

  • Poot Rootbeer

    I can’t give a good definition of immoderation, but like pornography and art. I know it when I see it. Eight million dollars cannot be considered a moderate amount by any standard (when talking about a single individual). I wouldn’t earn $8 million if I worked until I was 120 years old. The nickel slots aren’t that different from the $500 slots, except for the state of mind of the person pulling the handle.
    Gambling may be neither crime nor sin, but I do consider it to be a vice, and I find it hypocritical for a man who has positioned himself as a paragon of virtue to indulge so shamelessly.

  • John

    The interesting thing, judging from the comments and reactions both on the Internet and in the general media about the story, is that strict social conservatives — Bennett’s core audience — seem to be the ones the most offended about the revelation and his apparent indifference to the gambling/vice issue as it applies to him (liberals in general appear more outraged by the hypocracy than by the gambling itself).
    Those conservatives also tend to be a major source of Bennett’s income, through speaking fees to groups who beleived he shared the same social agenda. Their reaction to The Washington Monthly/Newsweek stories will be interesting, because if those groups cut off a large part of his speaking fee income stream, it may be hard for Bill to conintinue his $1 million-a-year gambling habit without having to dip into the rent money.
    If’s he’s taking in less a year in the future but conotinues to play the high-priced slots and tables at the same $20,000 a week rate, then any protests by Bennett that he doesn’t have a gambling problem will go out the window.

  • Mike G

    Be sure and read the letter from a reader that Sullivan posted today at his site. It raises a really good point: Bennett has certainly created the possibility of his being subject to pressure by organized crime over his enormous losses in a way that renders him unfit company for presidents (apart from JFK, maybe– they could take turns with Sam Giancana ballin’ Judith Exner). Now you could say that he’s only gambling in legal casinos, which are relatively clean today, and maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. But here’s a White House that won’t let you serve if you smoked pot after college. This guy is surely at least as dangerous as someone who took a hit at a party a year after graduation…

  • cardeblu

    “…You want me to get on a moral high horse? Fine, I can do that, too.
    Eight million dollars! Think what good could be done with that money. Try charity under any definition…” – Jeff
    Ack!! I’m right in the middle of reading “Atlas Shrugged,” and this, all, sounds just TOO familiar.
    Another analogy (although perhaps, indeed, QUITE a bit more “loose”) could be from Matt 26:7-11:
    7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
    8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.
    9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
    10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
    11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
    (again, this is meant as a very LOOSE analogy)
    I guess your POV on this must be from your self-acknowledged “liberal” side… ;)
    I hold no blame for either you or Bennett for your respective opinions/actions in this regard.

  • Roberta Celemente

    It’s his money, he didn’t steal it from widows and orphans. THis is such a non- issue for most people–I think it’s because he chose to gamble in tacky-land like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, rather than in private clubs in London and Monte Carol.

  • William Bennett was not just Secretary of Education; he was also Bush the Elder’s drug czar. Bennett had no problem locking people up for their personal behavior, and I don’t remember arguments that people should be allowed to ruin their own lives cutting much slack with him.
    One of the arguments for drug prohibition, after all, is that drugs ruin peoples’ lives by inducing them to spend huge amounts of cash sustaining their addiction. Case in point: In the early 70s, Black Sabbath was spending a quarter of a million dollars every month on cocaine. Bennett spent $8 million investigating practical applications of the law of averages.
    Adjusting for inflation, and assuming that more than four people were consuming Osbourne and company’s purchases, we can see that one of America’s chief virtue scolds feeds his habit at roughly the same rate as a heavy metal band that sings paeans to cocaine. We are told that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce; perhaps this is a third stage.

  • Brother Nikko

    Just a minor note, (but, since you made such a point of slamming him), Andrew Sullivan made the very explicit point on his site last week that he was NOT a Republican. After all the fuss over the Santorum remarks, he thought it best to clarify the issue for his readers. Why so much animus toward Andrew anyway, or was that just unavoidable “collateral damage” from the JDAM-o-righteousness you launched at Bennett?

  • From the story in the Washington Monthly Online
    “Despite his personal appetites, Bennett and his organization, Empower America, oppose the extension of casino gambling in the states. In a recent editorial, his Empower America co-chair Jack Kemp inveighed against lawmakers who “pollute our society with a slot machine on every corner.” The group recently published an Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, with an introduction written by Bennett, that reports 5.5 million American adults as “problem” or “pathological” gamblers. Bennett says he is neither because his habit does not disrupt his family life.”
    Anyone else still care to claim Bennett’s actions aren’t hypocritical? Sure, he said it isn’t a problem because it doesn’t affect his family. Lucky family: Daddy blows 8 million dollars on slot machines and they aren’t affected. I wish all families affected by the downfalls of gambling could be so well-off. I guess if you have enough money you can pick and choose which virtues are most important.

  • Richard Aubrey

    It’s interesting how many social liberals have suddenly decided that gambling is a vice. It must be the only one.
    If Bennett, as so many have said, had complained about gambling as a vice ruining our society, it would be different.
    Best of luck making something out of this.

  • Laertes

    Speaking on behalf of all social liberals everywhere, there’s absolutely nothing sudden about our recognition that gambling is a vice. That’s part of what makes it fun.
    Cheerfully indulging in vices while recognizing them as such is puzzling only if you’re a scold like Mr. Bennett.
    The folks who express mock surprise at this scolding of Mr. Bennett miss the point entirely–of course we don’t have a problem with his vices. We’re not the ones making a living off of denouncing vice. He is.
    As Michael Kinsley aptly pointed out, the fact that Mr. Bennett seems to have avoided directly condeming his vice of choice while relentlessly running down everyone else’s doesn’t really seem to cast him in a favorable light.
    As for you folks making arguments along the lines of “He’s not hurting anyone” or “it’s his money to do with as he pleases,” Bennett isn’t on your side. Those are the kind of perfectly reasonable arguments he’s made a handsome living railing against. Go to one of his appearances and try those arguments on him.

  • Jack Tanner

    He’s mostly hurt his potential earning ability as a paid moralizer and huckster of crappy moralizing books. If I never see him on TV again it’ll be too soon for me but if he wants to blow his money in a casino it’s his money. Isn’t gambling often associated with organized crime? Oh well, I guess that’s an old issue that nobody cares about.