The Bennett Brouhaha
If you wanted to prove that not all
neo-conservatives are Jewish, which seems to be a
burning issue in some quarters these days, one of the
first names you`d mention would be that of William
Bennett, once famous as the nation`s self-appointed
instructor in virtue but this week better known as the
main character out of an old
country-Western song by Kenny Rogers.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bennett lacks the flinty wisdom of
Mr. Rogers` gambler, who
knew when to hold `em and when to fold `em and when
to cut and run. Also unlike Mr. Bennett, he knew when to
For the last several days, Mr. Bennett has only made
the embarrassment of being exposed as a hypocrite worse
by trying to defend his wastrel habits.
"I don`t play the `milk money`," the Virtue Czar
whined to the press.
That`s swell. The $8 million he has played (and
apparently lost) during the last decade was a good deal
more than milk money, and most of it probably came from
the sales of his
books telling all of us how we ought to behave.
There`s nothing wrong with a little gambling, any
more than there`s anything wrong with a little drinking.
But when you guzzle the equivalent of $8 million worth
of booze in ten years,
something is definitely wrong, and so it is with
This is not the pastime of a fellow who plays a
little poker with his buddies every weekend or a guy who
bets the lottery with a system based on his
mother-in-law`s birthday. A man who loses $8 million in
a decade is out of control, and whatever the psychiatric
meaning of such conduct, the whole concept of virtue is
that you are in control—of your appetites and passions.
Mr. Bennett clearly isn`t. "Hypocrisy" is not quite
the word for it.
But his silly and unsavory gambling habit is really
not out of character for Mr. Bennett, whose entire life
has been based on what many moralists would tell you is
fundamentally wrong with gambling—that it`s an effort to
get something for nothing. From the earliest days of
career, that`s exactly what Bill Bennett has been
trying to do, and it`s closely related to his
emergence as a major neo-conservative leader.
Mr. Bennett started off his academic life with a
doctoral dissertation in philosophy at the University of
Texas; the dissertation was all of a whopping 129 pages
long, with only 10 pages of footnotes and a mere 13
items in the bibliography.
In the humanities, at the graduate level, that`s
unacceptable—indeed it`s barely acceptable for
undergraduates. Most dissertations run to 200 or more
pages, and if they don`t, they`re rejected.
How he got away with it isn`t clear, but, as one
scholar who`s read it tells me, "It may be the only
thing Mr. Bennett ever
wrote on his own." In 1980 he published a
book on affirmative action that apparently was
really written by "co-author"
Terry Eastland. That set the future philosopher on
his course to stardom.
It also set him up, in the new Reagan administration,
to be the neo-conservative candidate for the
chairmanship of the
National Endowment for the Humanities, which decides
which academic projects get funded and which don`t. His
main rival for the position was M.E. Bradford, a real
scholar from the University of Dallas whom Mr. Bennett`s
neo-con and left-wing cronies vilified. One such
smear-artist was leftist historian Eric Foner, who
curiously received sizable grants from the NEH once Mr.
Bennett took charge.
It was only a short step from the
NEH If to the Department of Education, where Mr.
Bennett, with his chief of staff Bill Kristol, managed
not only to save the department from President Reagan`s
pledge to abolish it but actually enlarged it by some $9
billion more than under Jimmy Carter. A former
Department employee tells me, "his speech writers
used to ask the librarians at the Department library to
come up with famous quotations to make Bennett`s
speeches appear erudite."
When his best-selling
Book of Virtues came out and made the
erudite Dr. Bennett rich, it soon developed, as the
New Yorker reported a few years ago, that "Dr.
Virtue" had nothing to do with writing it. The whole
tome was really the work of a ghostwriter who got a cut
of Mr. Bennett`s immense royalties.
Better him than the casinos, I guess.
The pattern is clear enough: Virtually everything Mr.
Bennett has done or claimed to have done throughout his
career is simply a fraud—not least the fake
"conservatism" and vapidly pious moralisms he has made a
fortune by preaching.
It`s hardly surprising that this week his fellow
phonies among the neo-cons are
shrieking in his defense.
Why shouldn`t they? They`re well-suited to each
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,
America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The
Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available
Americans For Immigration Control.]