Saturday, October 01, 2005

the divided colors of bennett

Willam Bennett in the days before he caught foot-in-mouth disease

Oh, my good Lord. Who would have thought that one short sentence could piss off so many different sections of society all at once.

For something that has caused so much of a bru-ha-ha in the USA, it was pretty difficult to find the exact quote on the net. Eventually I found this on…

If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.

"That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he added.

Knowing a bit about radio studios as I do, I reckon the second sentence was uttered as a reaction to the collective faces of all within his line of sight after saying the first.

No doubt the Democrats will be all over this. I personally never heard of this guy. Not much chance of my learning anything interesting about this guy by way of their sites either.

I found this one, however, which gave me the skinny…

William Bennett

• Host of America’s Leading Talk Radio Program, Morning in America
America’s Leading Intellectual Voice on Social and Cultural Issues
• Bestselling Author

William J. Bennett is one of America's most important, influential and respected voices on cultural, political and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard. He is the host of a national radio show called Bill Bennett’s Morning in America which is syndicated by the Salem Radio Network. The program airs from 6-9:00 a.m. (eastern). Dr. Bennett is the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and the Chairman and co-founder of the education company K12, Inc. He is also the chairman of Americans for Victory over Terrorism, a project dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public opinion as the war on terrorism moves forward.

During the 1980s, Dr. Bennett emerged as one of the nation's most prominent political figures. He served as President Reagan's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985) and Secretary of Education (1985-1988) and President Bush's "drug czar" (1989-1990). In his various roles, he was perceived -- even by his adversaries -- as a man of strong, reasoned convictions who spoke candidly, eloquently and honestly about some of the most important issues of our time.

Bill Bennett has accomplished a rare feat: since leaving government, he has achieved an even greater impact on our national political debate. Dr. Bennett has written for America's leading newspapers and magazines and appeared on the nation's most influential television shows. He has also written and edited 16 books, two of which -- The Book of Virtues and The Children's Book of Virtues -- rank among the most successful of the past decade. The Book of Virtues has been made into an animated series that airs on PBS in the United States and Great Britain and has been seen in over 65 countries. Dr. Bennett's most recent book is Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism. Dr. Bennett was named by focus groups and leading analysts the "Best Communicator of 2002," the most well-received public commentator on the issues of "pride, patriotism, faith and moral conviction.

Although he is a well-known Republican, Dr. Bennett often has crossed party lines in order to pursue important common purposes. He has worked closely with Democratic leaders to fight the decline of popular culture and to end worldwide religious persecution and he is the co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

Thanks to his writings and speeches, William Bennett has extraordinary influence on America's political and social landscape. He, his wife Elayne and their two sons, John and Joseph, live in Maryland.

I think the significant words here are “his writings and speeches”. Public speaking is BIG BIG money. This man has obviously made it his living. He has no choice but to stand by his words.

It was a stupid, stupid, thing to say. Let those who are offended have their say so that we can all get on with our lives.

Speaking of those who were offended, I wonder if there was any reaction from the pro-life campaign?


Garry said...

The last sentence echoes what I thought when I read about this in the Guardian. I suspect their outrage will be somewhat muted, and there'll be many nods and sniggers in the la di da country clubs frequented by the religious right middle -classes.

And if you follow this bastard's logic to a conclusion you can boil it down to: end social problems: sterilise the poor.

James Howard Shott said...

I have actually heard this comment, and some of the commentary that preceded it, as well as what followed it. The second sentence you referred to was not a comment meant to repair damage, but a continuation of the first sentence.

I like Bill Bennett. He and his wife have done far more good for America's black families than harm. His efforts on their behalf are fairly well known.

I think he made an unfortunate choice of words, a dumb remark, not a viscious or racist remark. Bennett is not a racist.

His critics will certainly exploit his mistake, you can be sure.

JL Pagano said...

I am hardly surprised that you defend him, Mr S, but I hope you appreciate that I have tried to be as open minded about him with this post as I can rather than turn it into a petty excuse to attack the entire American Right.

Since writing the post, I too have heard what he said, and I agree with you, the second sentence was said immediately after the first, so I am more than willing to retract my speculation.

I'm also glad that you agree that the wisdom of the remark was questionable at best, and it does make you wonder why he insists on standing by it rather than hold his hand up and laugh it off?

James Howard Shott said...

I do, indeed, appreciate your restraint, Mr. P., as well as your high degree of fairness on this one.

As to his defense of the statement, that's somewhat puzzling to me, too. The only thing I can say is that, knowing what was in his mind at the time, and further knowing that making a racial slur was not the intent, Bennett fails to understand what everyone is so upset about and holds fast to his comment, because to him it says what he meant to say.

Maybe that doesn't explain Bennett's defense; however, having followed him through the years, I've seen him politely and (most often) gently press his points, even points that are very critical of someone. His civility is one of the things I admire about him, in fact. He works very hard to say what he means to say without resorting to mean-spirited or blameful rhetoric. So I know intuitively that he meant to communicate a completely different idea, and that he has not one racist bone in his body.