Jewish World Review May 27, 2003 / 25 Iyar, 5763
The lynching of Bill Bennett
We live in a spin-filled world, and it's getting worse. The sad
case of Dr. William Bennett is a vivid example of that. His critics have
hung him in the town square with a sign saying "hypocrite." But let's take a
look at the big picture.
When President Clinton was exposed for having lied under oath in
the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, his defenders, mostly on the Left,
screamed long and loud that lying about sex was permissible even under oath.
Even though Mr. Clinton had taken the presidential oath to uphold the laws
of the land, and perjury is included in that basket, the word hypocrite was
never entertained by the Left.
When the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Mr. Clinton's spiritual
advisor, was exposed for fathering a child out-of-wedlock and then paying
the mother, his mistress, with tax-exempt funds, few on the Left said a
word. And certainly the word hypocrite could have been applied in this
But when Bill Bennett was found to have an expensive
predilection for legal gambling, the author of "The Book of Virtues" was
vilified by leftist pundits like Michael Kinsley and Frank Rich, who wielded
the hypocrite description like a sledgehammer in an attempt to pound Bennett
You can decide whether Bill Bennett is a hypocrite or not, but
the tactics used by the Left in this matter are surely disturbing. If you
read Bennett's books, his main thesis is that parents and teachers should be
good role models for children, and provide them with traditional moral
values that engender respect for others and themselves. That is Bennett's
So why are Kinsley and Rich so thrilled that a messenger of this
kind has been damaged by slot machines? I know Bennett is a conservative and
blasted the moral tone set by President Clinton, but so what? His main
crusade is to help children succeed in this hyper-competitive society.
Bennett's wife is the president of an organization called "Best
Friends," which mentors inner city children from high-risk families. "Best
Friends" does a tremendous amount of good, and the Bennetts donate their
time and money to the cause without calling press conferences touting their
By contrast, Frank Rich, one of Bennett's main tormentors,
entitled his New York Times attack on Bennett "Tupac's Revenge." Rich's
unbelievably harebrained theme was that the rap music spawned by the late
Tupac Shakur has prospered while Bennett, who has criticized gangsta rap,
has been taken down. Rich is happy about this. Rich apparently believes that
lyrics glorifying drugs, violence and the abuse of women are far more worthy
than platitudes from "The Book of Virtues." Is this nuts, or what?
The lynching of Bill Bennett has been designed to send a clear
message: If you dare to make judgments about personal behavior, watch out if
you have any sins yourself. Of course, everybody has sins, and if the
standard for making moral pronouncements is personal perfection, than no one
would be able to make any.
And that is the goal of the secularists, a judgment-free
society. They believe that there is no place in American society for
standards of conduct based on moral principles. The secularists want a
behavioral free-fire zone, and G-d, pardon the spiritual reference, help you
if you disagree with that.
But most Americans do disagree with the secularists and want a
society based on Judeo-Christian philosophy, nearly every poll on the matter
demonstrates that. But the secularists, as Bill Bennett found out, hold
enormous power, especially in the print media.
Bennett gave the witch hunters rope, and they hung him with it.
But those of us watching this brutal display should think about its wider
implications. The personal destruction of a man espousing the protection of
children surely is devoid of any virtue. And the conduct of the people
participating in that destruction is certainly unbecoming.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate