May 7, 2003
If Rick Santorum were in a gay love triangle, he might be more of a hypocrite than Bill Bennett--but not by much.
Seems the virtue czar has got a big vice of his own: a gambling habit reportedly with $8 million in losses over the last decade.
Now public figures have a right to their private lives, and Bennett apparently wasn't hurting anybody but himself here.
But if you're going to indulge a personal vice, it's probably not a good idea to set yourself up as the king of virtue. And that's what Bennett has done for the last twenty years. He has made a career out of being judgmental of others and preaching against "unrestricted personal liberty."
Few people took so much delight in Bill Clinton's foibles than Bennett.
Few have sneered as nastily as Bennett at libertarians and progressives who support abortion rights and gay rights and the decriminalization of marijuana.
He's made a fortune on his "Book of Virtues," where he writes, in the very first paragraph, about people who fail to control their "tempers, appetites, passions, and impulses." Bennett's last sentence in this paragraph: " 'Oh, if only I had stopped myself' is an all too familiar refrain."
On top of that, the organization he helped found, Empower America, opposes legalized gambling and lists gambling as one of the problems in its Index of Leading Cultural Indicators.
Like Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry, Bill Bennett has been preaching one thing while doing another.
Now he's decided to give up gambling. I'd much prefer it if he gave up preaching.