With DeLay and Roberts hogging the news cycle, I'm surprised that this got any media attention.
Congressional Democrats blasted former Education Secretary William Bennett on Thursday for saying that aborting "every black baby in this country" would reduce the crime rate, and demanded their Republican counterparts do the same.
"This is precisely the kind of insensitive, hurtful and ignorant rhetoric that Americans have grown tired of," said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday that President Bush "believes the comments were not appropriate."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, had called on President Bush to condemn the comments by Bennett, who was anti-drug chief in Bush's father's administration.
"What could possibly have possessed Secretary Bennett to say those words, especially at this time?" Pelosi asked. "What could he possibly have been thinking? This is what is so alarming about his words."
Harry Reid, the NAACP, and some pundits have also weighed in. I actually find the "gotcha" game of staged outrage and dueling demands for apologies and denunciations to be tedious, childish, and not very effective. It's the kind of thing that turns many Americans off of politics. And it's done so often, by both sides, that it contributes to the relativization of politics, the growing sense that all crimes are equal and "they all do it." The biggest shame of that perception is that, when genuinely serious transgressions occur, they fail to rise out of the background noise to get the attention and outrage they deserve.
That's not to say that I don't think Bennett should be smacked down for a truly reprehensible comment that will only serve to encourage the worst in Americans at a very bad time. I think he should. Bennett is a loud-mouthed, self-righteous jerk. He's made a career out of scolding other people for their lack of shame and personal responsibility while exhibiting neither quality in the conduct of his own life.
I think there is a fundamental difference between Bennett and Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay is an important member in the Republican Party. Many Republicans have profited from his schemes and have submitted to his leadership. It's fair game to hold the entire party responsible for tolerating and encouraging DeLay and his culture of corruption. Bennett does not hold an official position in Republican Party. The GOP as a whole is no more responsible for Bennett's ignorant mouthings off that the Democratic Party is for the rantings of someone like Ward Churchill. Of course, individual members of the parties should be held responsible if they endorse the opinions of the loud-mouthed jerks. It would be a sign of personal virtue on the part of individual Republicans if they distanced themselves from Bennett, but it's not really honest to hold the Party as a whole responsible for him. Bennett himself, however, should be squashed like a bug.
Turing back to Bennett, let's see if he does exhibit any sense of shame or personal responsibility over this. In my last post on the subject, I predicted that he would claim he was just trying to make a point and that we're all picking on him if we don't get it. Let's go to the tape.
Bennett stood by his comments Thursday night.
"I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it's morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means," he told CNN.
"I don't think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry."
"But that's not what I advocate."
Asked if he owed people an apology, Bennett replied, "I don't think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology."
I don't suppose Mr. Bennett would like to place a friendly wager as to whether or not he will be receiving that apology.