The Bill Bennett gambling revelations continue to draw much chatter in the blogosphere and elsewhere, for reasons that escape me. Richard Bennett wants Bennett to change his name because playing slots demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding of the odds and thus gives Bennetts a bad name. He also quotes Howard Stern as saying slots are for little old ladies. Meryl Yourish, an honorary Alabamian, thinks Bennett (Bill, not Richard) is an “obnoxious moralizer,” likes Michael Kinsley’s take on the issue so much that she may yet allow him to marry her, and disagrees with the people over at NRO, especially Stanley and, by extension, Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan defends gambling but notes that Leocons, Neocons, and Theocons don’t like it.
Meanwhie, Bennett (again, Bill, not Richard) has promised to quit gambling if people will just shut up.
The Weekly Standard‘s Jonathan Last agrees with me on Bill Bennett’s Gambling “Problem”:
Expect the mainstream press to jump on this tomorrow and similar guffawing and sniggering from Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, et al. to follow by no later than Tuesday morning.
I don’t understand what the big deal is. The news that Bennett gambles big-time isn’t new. In 1996 Margaret Carlson reported that Bennett won $60,000 in a single outing in Las Vegas. Of course being old news wouldn’t matter if it was a serious charge. But legal gambling is, well, legal.
One is tempted to argue that Bennett’s gambling is a legal, common, private activity. But that shouldn’t necessarily protect him. If Bennett was cheating on his wife (which is also legal, common, and private) it would be a serious charge, but that’s because it involves the breaking of trust and willingness to hurt others. On the scale of legal, common, private activities, gambling is much closer to smoking than adultery. Would the world shudder if it turned out that Bennett was a two-pack-a-day man?
Indeed, I’d contend that would be worse. There is at least evidence that smoking is harmful. Judging by Bennett’s appearance, he’s not missing any meals. I suspect his family isn’t either.
Here’s a link to the Washington Monthly version of the story referenced in Last’s piece. I must admit, “The Bookie of Virtue” is a clever title, even if Bennett wasn’t actually taking bets but rather making them.