Adrift in a sea of phoniness

Professor David Gelernter writes that “[i]nsincerity is the new theme of American politics.” He presents a few case studies, including the patently phony attack on Bill Bennett. Gelernter’s column is Adrift in a sea of phoniness.”

As to Bennett, Gelernter writes:

It reads like science fiction — live from the planet Bozo, a man whose enemies know by magic that he actually means the exact opposite of what he says.

A few weeks ago, Bennett said on his radio program that X is a stupid idea; then he said that if you believe X, you might as well believe Y. But Y is “impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible.” One thing we know for sure: Bennett is against Y. He thinks that Y is “impossible,” is “ridiculous,” is “morally reprehensible.” “Y” was the idea that aborting all black babies would cut the crime rate.

So the left jumped all over him. Bizarrely enough, the White House chimed in. (A Republican White House opening fire on Bennett is like the Joint Chiefs bombing their own front lines.) Yet no one who read or heard Bennett’s actual statement in context could possibly have believed that Bennett is racist or had talked like a racist.

But our public life is so deeply phony that, although a few stalwarts defended him, no one pointed out the gross hypocrisy of his accusers. (No one I’ve heard, anyway.) Those accusers knew perfectly well that he was not promoting a racist view of American life, he was denouncing a racist view — loudly and clearly, without a shadow of ambiguity.

What part of “impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible” did they not understand?

I wonder if “drowning in a sea of phoniness” might not be the better metaphor, but in any event this is one column that could inspire a sequel or two. If you would like to submit case studies for consideration in addition to Professor Gelernter’s (let’s exclude the ongoing Harriet Miers debate), please send us a message.

JOHN adds: Bennett defended himself ably in a speech on October 8, which Real Clear Politics reproduced yesterday. Gelernter is right; what makes the attacks on Bennett so disgusting is that they do not arise out of misunderstanding. His attackers are well aware that Bennett is no racist.

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