The Corner

They Started It

From a reader:

I love seeing conservatives tie themselves in knots trying to explain why it’s fine for Bill Bennett to make a living as an officious prig and then engage in a life of sin. Interesting how the Right has suddenly adopted the “It’s legal, so it’s ok,” standard.

If it was you, Rich Lowry, or George Will who liked getting taken to the cleaners by video games, it would be one thing. But when a man whose only public function has been to assert some ephemeral connection between private vices and public legitimacy is caught doing something unseemly, what’s wrong with pointing out the rank hypocrisy?

Finally, who cares that Bennett has always exempted gambling from his parade of horribles that are dragging us to Gomorrah? Why are conservatives being so

charitable about such a self-serving explanation? You made the rules of the

moral gotcha game, and now you whine when they are applied to your favorite

stuffed shirts.

My response: I don’t think much of this email covers ground not covered in my column. But there are two points in the last graf which deserve responding to. First, there’s nothing about Bill Bennett which qualifies him as a stuffed shirt, except the silly stereotype I referred to earlier. More important it is a lie that conservatives started the “gotcha game.” If we’re going to play “who started it?” then we must look to the John Tower affair, the Robert Bork confirmation, and the Clarence Thomas hearings. We should also look to Bob Packwood. I was always astounded that privacy mavens didn’t raise a fuss when the State decided to rummage through the man’s diary. Almost by definition, diaries are the most private things in the world. Yes, conservatives got into this game too. But to fight fire with fire. It was only then that liberals started to whine about the “politics of personal destruction.”

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