National: Bill Bennett Is Gambling Again
On his "Morning in America" radio program, beloved conservative moralist and spokesman William Bennett took issue with the notion that one reason crime is down is that abortion is up.
The author of "The Book of Virtues” observed: “…I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett added that it’s "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
So Bennett believes that black people are congenital criminals. Invited to explain this remarkable view, Bennett said nothing to distance himself from it. Instead of disclaiming the opinion or trying to convince the public that he had misspoken, his after-the-fact explanations attempts to shift the focus back to his pro-life stance. Bennett is gambling again: betting that the public will be so diverted by his anti-abortion rights rhetoric that they will forget what he inadvertently revealed on his radio show: his belief that black people are basically criminal by their very nature.
The White House response? Well, they immediately issued a strong condemnation of Bennett’s remarks, right? Fat chance. They’re not ready to dump Bennett over a little thing like that. Bennett presents himself as a defender of the legacy of Ronald Reagan; he has become a very popular radio apologist for the current Bush administration. He was even a long time favorite fill-in host for Rush Limbaugh; there’s no way the Bush people would immediately disown him over something so trivial as blatant racism. Asked for the President's reaction to Bennett’s remarks, spokesman Scott McClellan said: "The president believes the comments were not appropriate."
Not exactly a vigorous denunciation of what Bennett said, is it? "’Not appropriate’ is wearing white shoes after Labor Day,” noted Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. “These comments were reprehensible and racist."
Every so often the mask slips and we see the true face of modern American conservatism. But Bennett’s unintentional candor probably won’t cost him any listeners; I’d be surprised to see his ratings drop if he refuses to retract or apologize. In fact, his views will probably win him even more support from the most conservative radio listeners: at last, a respected man of the right who isn’t afraid to say what so many white conservatives really think of black Americans. How refreshing! It may, however, adversely affect the ongoing GOP effort to diversify the party.
Bennett and his defenders would really get a shock if they visited Africa. They would be horrified to see, as I have seen, entire countries where black people are allowed to roam at liberty, unincarcerated. These black people work at their jobs or on their tiny farms; some of them even serve the public as lawmakers, justice officials, policemen and even prison guards! I suppose that Bennett and his audience would find it amazing, but despite the widespread poverty--in the whole two months I was there, no one robbed me or killed me. And I had no idea that, in Bennett’s view, I was touring a continent of biologically predestined crooks. In fact most of the people I met seemed quite hospitable and pleasant; their main preoccupation seemed to be caring for their families, their children.
Imagine Bennett’s chagrin if he went to Africa and saw millions of black people running loose, pretending they weren’t all doomed to criminality by virtue of their unfortunate pigmentation! Maybe Bush will appoint him ambassador to Tanzania or Zambia so he can go over there and explain their true nature to them and convince them of the hopelessness of their ongoing law-abiding charade. Or maybe he should go over there and do a radio show; he could tell them how they could eliminate any crime problems they do have by putting everyone who lives there in prison.
Something else I’d like to see: Bill Bennett preparing for a social evening at home with conservatives Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell. Bennett, prior to the guests’ arrival, carefully counting the silverware. Bennett, welcoming them into his home, telling them gravely that if anything’s missing at the end of the evening, he’s calling the police. Bennett, making small talk over drinks (nothing too strong, you know the effect that hard liquor has on people with innate criminal tendencies.) Bennett, asking his African-American guests what he should tell their parole officers if they happen to call to check in.
For diversity’s sake, he could also invite Republican Congressional leaders Tom DeLay (indicted) and Bill Frist (under investigation by the SEC.) No need to count the silverware when those guys are around, of course; they’re white and they’ve already managed to acquire quite a bit of wealth on their own—somehow.