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In Defense of Bill Bennett

I have to salute Mr. Bennett for his gambling preferences. Video Poker, according to Jonathan Alter [who advocated torture as acceptable in the Terror War, remember?]. I too am a video poker player.

Unlike Bennett, though, I never come out ahead. Some nights have found me breaking even. Others, forty or even fifty dollars behind on a machine owned and operated by one tribal nation or another.

I’m not a high-stakes gambler on video poker. But I can see why Bill Bennett is. Bill Bennett, unlike me, is a player. So ensconced in the Washington establishment that he calls Hannity Stepin and Colmes Fetchit. Bennett has a piece of more think tanks than I’ve had first dates. While the best-selling moralist was penning such tomes as “The Death of Outrage” and “The Book of Virtues”, I was pimping myself out to Blockbuster and Sherwin-Williams to pay rent on some dump. He’s a player, a pimp, and by comparison I’m a tricked-out streetwalker, scraping nickels off of the oil-stained pavement.

Obviously, virtue pays. As does profiteering off of the misery of others. Those who scold Bennett for escapism through casino video games miss the point. Bennett was in a position to gamble in such a manner because he was well-paid to advocate a federal imposition of morality on a hapless, helpless people.

Bill Bennett should not be pilloried because he maxed out his credit line in Atlantic City, Vegas, or even Reno. Bennett should be taken to task for undermining teacher’s unions while Education Secretary. If it weren’t for the work Bennett did as Drug Czar, the federal government might not have a pretext to build a police state around combating blunts and bongs. Over two million in jail, many for weed busts, and Bill Bennett served as the Thomas Jefferson of the Drug War.

These are serious gambles that the American people lost. No matter how many third-world countries the US dominates, the US will never undo the damage of policies Bill Bennett advocated and helped implement. Our treasury will never cover the bets Bennett and his cronies floated on the backs of those too mute to protest what is done, has been done, and will be done in their names.

Don’t criticize Bill Bennett because one of his foibles has been exposed by an enemy in the mainstream press. Criticize Bennett because his brand of big-government conservatism has created a disastrous situation in Washington. As the Treasury raises the Federal debt limit, as new federal law enforcement programs are proposed hand in glove with tax cuts, it’s impossible not to see that the losses Bill Bennett has inflicted on his own bank account pale in comparison to those he and his boys have inflicted on present and future generations. In that context, even millions dropped at Caesar’s is merely walking around money.

Of course, Bennett will have money to burn until he keels over dead. He’s better than almost anyone in America at rallying the people against amorphous menaces. Consider how Bennett sold the Terror War at UCLA recently. No conflict but an open-ended one would lend itself to rhetoric like this:

“I had a sense that the ardor for this effort against terrorism was starting to grow dim, was diminishing in this country just six months after 9-11, and that I wondered whether we had the stuff to take this effort over the long run, over the long haul, over the 10, or 20, or 30 years that this World War IV, as it was referred to earlier, may take, because indeed I don’t know how long it will take, but it will take a long time. It will take many places, there will be many theaters of operation, but it will be a long struggle. We concluded a long twilight struggle some 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, and now it looks like we are embarked on another. But, it’s very important, and it’s essential that we do it.”

The struggles are always very important. Stemming the Soviet tide in Nicaragua, or Grenada. Making America drug free by 1990, or maybe 1995. The role of the people, in Bennett’s eyes, is to trust the federal government.

And the people, bless their would-be virtuous hearts, wouldn’t understand “theaters of operation” in “twilight.” That’s Bill Bennett’s job, and that of others like him, comfortable no matter how high the stakes are. After all, they’re playing with house money.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a regular CounterPunch writer, accepts emails at Gancarski@Hotmail.Com

 

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ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

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