I am not sure what Andrew Sullivan is thinking about in this defense of Bill Bennett’s gambling:
What, I ask myself, has he conceivably done wrong? He has done nothing illegal. He has done nothing hypocritical. Only in the minds of a few religious fanatics, has he done anything immoral. This invasion of his privacy and attempted smearing of his character have been perpetrated for transparently political reasons and are yet another sign of how our culture is making it increasingly difficult for any actual living, breathing, fallible human being to function in public life, without profound personal costs. Is it relevant that Bennett is a “moralizer”? Not in the slightest. He hasn’t moralized against the alleged “vice” he has engaged in; in fact, the record shows the opposite. Yes, he has hob-nobbed with the likes of James Dobson and other theocrats.
Andy- Why don’t you ask him what he thinks about anal sex between consenting adults? Or oral sex? Or simply dressing in drag? I bet you won’t like his position. Josh Marshall gets it, though:
Now, two key points have been made in B(2)’s defense. One is that he didn’t lose so much money as to endanger the well-being of his family. Or, as Bennett himself said, that he can ‘handle it.’ (Isn’t this what we hear from recreational drug users, who hold down jobs and have intact families?)…
The other point made in Bennett’s defense is that he may have been an offensive sermonizer on all sorts of vices, but this is the one vice he left alone. So you can hardly charge him with hypocrisy. To me it’s seems just the opposite. Bennett goes off on every ‘vice’ there is, save the one he seems to indulge. That seems very much like cutting himself the break he cuts no one else.
Why doesn’t Bennett just shut up and let us all choose our own vices? That seems to make more sense…
As Atrios puts it (You have no idea how much this probably hurts both of us to agree on something):
The defense that Bennett never condemned gambling, so therefore he can’t be a hypocrite, is silly. Bennett didn’t just tell us we must obey Bill’s 10 commandments, he told us that we should all be a bunch of moralizing assholes and that we should apply social pressure to things we consider bad – doubly so for people in public life.
I don’t think that drinking, smoking, gambling, and eating are for most people such a big deal. Clearly, nor does Bill Bennett. I also don’t think homosexuality is a bad thing, I think decent people (and not so decent ones including many of Bennett’s pals) get divorced, and once in awhile people get a blowjob. But, Mr. Virtue is the one who has argued we should bring back the Scarlet Letters for things we disapprove of. When he made that argument he wasn’t saying it was for things that he disapproved of, but as Kinsley points out he argued that we must “enter judgments on a whole range of behaviors and attitudes.”