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Can’t Win


Andrew Sullivan says that he’s “amazed that no one at National Review or the Weekly Standard has even the mildest criticism [of Bennett] to offer” and adds that social conservatives “are a disciplined political bunch.” Well, Jonah offered some mild criticism (“I think Bennett gambles too much and I completely understand why opponents of gambling and decent people generally are disappointed in Bennett”), as has Rod (below). I’ve linked to, albeit without commenting on, Ross Douthat’s criticism (also below).

But let’s say none of those things had been published. What would have been so amazing about our silence? Have we been notably censorious about other people who gamble too much? If you’re a “social conservative” on one issue, do you have to be one on all the others? (In which case, Andrew Sullivan, who opposes embryonic stem-cell research, is socially conservative and National Review, which opposes the drug war, isn’t.)

Several Bennett critics have suggested that he never went after gambling because of his weakness in this area. In effect, they are criticizing him for his lack of hypocrisy (and, of course, criticizing him for his hypocrisy at the same time). Sullivan wants to put social conservatives in another double bind: If they condemn Bennett, they’re theocratic scolds; if they don’t, they’re hypocrites. But neither conclusion makes any sense.


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