Timothy Noah wonders whether Morality Czar Bill Bennett is being hypocritical in his muted comments on recent scandals involving Rush Limbaugh and Arnold Schwarzenegger, or has become chastened by the revelations of his own gambling habit. One suspects a bit of both.

But Noah then makes a rather wild leap, citing this quotation from Bennett after Arnold’s election:

Outrage was killed in 1998. The public, having turned its face away from President Clinton’s outrages, was not likely to turn its face toward outrage when the two plausible options seemed to be the embrace of a radically less-than-perfect actor-cum-politician or the continued demise of the state of California.

Sneers Noah,

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s radical lack of perfection had to be Clinton’s fault! There was only one conclusion to draw. Bennett was not making allowances for human weakness when he shut his trap about Schwarzenegger. He was showing discipline and staying on message. He was taking a dive.

Well, no. What he says is that, given the public reaction to Clinton, reaction to Arnold’s comparatively minor transgressions (presuming a movie star is held to lower standards than the Leader of the Free World and that the leading man-actress relationship is a bit less sacrosanct than president-intern) was to be expected.

But, clearly, Bennett’s ability to be the head of the morality police has been compromised by revelations of his own imperfections.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Depending on what is immoral. He grew up gambling and he never once wrote or said it was immoral. His family was well taken care of so it is hard to argue he harmed anyone.

    Many very moral Catholics gamble. Many Lutherans don’t.

    Baptists think I am immoral if I have a bit of wine.

    Does that mean I can not decry the indecency of modern society?