Saturday, October 8, 2005

Bennett's Folly, defended

We knew William Bennett would inevitably surface again, after his recent talk-radio appearance in which he effectively imputed original sin to black children born and unborn [see the post "Bennett's Folly"]. And we frankly expected at least a smidgen of mea culpa from the oversize ego of the author of "The Book of Virtues."

But no! Today, in a classic example of blaming the messenger, and preaching before His Kind of Crowd in Bakersfield, Calif., the former education secretary -- a champion of social and political conservatism -- blamed the news media for having distorted his remarks about the societal benefit of aborting black babies as a pre-emptive approach to short-circuiting crime.

Bennett, making his first public fulminations since the comment was broadcast on his "Morning in America" radio show last month, told a crowd of 4,500 like-minded mushwits at the Bakersfield Business Conference that he purposely made "a bad argument in order to put it down."

"I was putting forward a bad argument in order to put it down," he said, drawing sustained applause, according to The Associated Press. "They reported and emphasized only the abhorrent argument, not my shooting it down."

We might have expected this. As we remember from how he handled public reaction to his little ... preoccupation with the gaming table -- one that reportedly cost him $8 million over a decade -- William Bennett is loathe to admit ever having done wrong. It's natural, of course, to get your back up when someone catches you committing a transgression. But contrition is anathema to Bennett; perhaps it's to be expected from a man who long ago appointed himself the Values Czar of America, king of the finger-waggers, a moralistic Aesop for our time.

Bennett dug in his heels even during a meeting with some black community leaders, who naturally expressed their outrage. It was all the press' fault. He was taken out of context, he was presumed to be saying what he believed when he was just deliberately positing an over-the-top argument for the sake of argument.

All of which would be easier to swallow if this darling of the GOP hadn't started his little exercise in anti-social roleplay with the words "I do know that it's true." [Again, see "Bennett's Folly" for the full flatulent remark.]

Where this mess goes from here is anyone's guess; there's never been any love lost between Bennett and African Americans anyway, and this will only make things worse. But black folks have long memories (even sometimes when we shouldn't), and Bennett's commentary -- coming so soon on the heels of the disastrous federal response to Katrina, and as part and parcel of blacks' old suspicions of the GOP's racial initiatives -- is the kind of thing that tends to be remembered at election time.

We do know that's true.

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