For some reason, William Bennett has never quite been my cup of tea. He has always seemed a bit pompous and overbearing in his role as “virtue czar.” However, this is a purely subjective reaction. Objectively, I regard him as a positive force. So the question now, I guess, is whether he should lose his standing to continue to be that force as a spokesman for virtue and personal responsibility. For me, this turns on whether Bennett has engaged in a vice or has refused to accept personal responsibility. I don’t regard high stakes gambling as a vice in itself. In extreme cases (and Bennett’s case sounds extreme) it combines two traits often associated with vice, indulgent consumption and addiction, but not in a way that strikes me as sinful. Nor do I know of any evidence at this point that Bennett has abdicated any personal responsibility (e.g. failed to pay gambling debts or placed his family in a bad financial position). Thus, I don’t think that the gambling revelations would cause me to stop paying attention to Bennett.
However, the real test for Bennett will come in the market place. Will his “virtue” audience (of which I’m not really a member) continue to see him as someone worth listening to on matters of right and wrong? Reasonable people can disagree about whether he is, and I suspect that Rocket Man is right — Bennett is not well-positioned to continue his “career in virtue.” I expect him to drift more into ordinary punditry where, owing to his intelligence and force of personality, he will continue to be strong voice.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell