Abandoning Virtue?

William Bennett--former drug czar, conservative Republican activist, and author of "The Book of Virtues"--wrote that we need "to set definite boundaries on our appetites." One unchecked appetite of Bennett's, writes Joshua Green in the Washington Monthly, is gambling:
Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn. He has opined on everything from drinking to "homosexual unions" to "The Ricki Lake Show" to wife-swapping. There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling. This is a notable omission, since on this issue morality and public policy are deeply intertwined. During Bennett's years as a public figure, casinos, once restricted to Nevada and New Jersey, have expanded to 28 states, and the number continues to grow. In Maryland, where Bennett lives, the newly elected Republican governor Robert Ehrlich is trying to introduce slot machines to fill revenue shortfalls. As gambling spreads, so do its associated problems. Heavy gambling, like drug use, can lead to divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and bankruptcy. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, residents within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be classified as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers than those who live further away.

If Bennett hasn't spoken out more forcefully on an issue that would seem tailor-made for him, perhaps it's because he is himself a heavy gambler. Indeed, in recent weeks word has circulated among Washington conservatives that his wagering could be a real problem. They have reason for concern. The Washington Monthly and Newsweek have learned that over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a "preferred customer" at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million.
The Net's abuzz about this one, generating opinions on all sides (Slate and The Weekly Standard). My favorite is a commentary by Patrick Rooney of The Washington Dispatch:
The reasons [Jonathan] Alter and Green went after William F. Bennett are clear: 1. Bennett is a high-profile Republican and supporter of the president; 2. He’s at odds with the National Education Administration (NEA) from his stint as Education Secretary under Ronald Reagan and also for his K12 initiative which seeks to give parents and kids high-tech internet tools to succeed, thus threatening the NEA’s current education monopoly; 3. He was U.S. Drug Czar and articulated boldly against the legalization of drugs; 4. He has promoted heterosexuality and pointed out the danger of the homosexual life; and most recently 5. He has blasted the anti-freedom critics of our war with Iraq with clear, common-sense observations: “Those who march against the U.S. and the U.K. today, those who condemn Bush and Blair and remain silent when it comes to Hussein, are in league with the wolf’s view that the shepherds are destroying liberty.”

William Bennett was simply too rational, too articulate, too... moral, for liberals to take.
Too moral, eh? I think the problem with the right is that it's only immoral if they're not doing it.

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