Pubdate: Sat, 10 May 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.


Habit Doesn't Change Validity Of Message

Some who have not liked his virtues-promoting message have been nothing 
short of gleeful that William Bennett has been exposed as a big-time 
gambler, but they ought to concede a couple of points, starting with this 
one: The validity of an argument is not dependent on the conduct of the 
person making it.

Bennett, a former education secretary and anti-drug chief, has made the 
case in books, speeches and TV appearances for responsibility and avoidance 
of those vices that are humanly degrading. While there is room to dispute 
some of his particulars, the case is one that needs to be made; America, 
for all its wonders, sometimes seems to be flirting with decadence. At any 
rate, the proper tests for what he has said are such things as logic, 
evidence and wealth of understanding. On those grounds, Bennett has done well.

It is certainly true that Bennett, by gambling apparently huge amounts of 
money over the years, stands as a counterexample of his thesis that 
behavior should be temperate. But here is a second point: If only the 
unblemished preached virtue, virtue would only seldom be preached. After 
all, who among us are without fault? And even people with the most grievous 
faults can often see that their faults are just that, grievous. Although he 
did not completely abide by them, Bennett seems to have been sincere in his 
stances. Hypocrisy resides in insincerity.

Yes, he should have understood that his seemingly excessive gambling 
exhibited dubious values and could someday be used to undercut his 
credibility, and it has to be a disappointment for many who have applauded 
him that he did not exercise more self-control. Having paid a price, he now 
says he will not gamble again. Maybe so, but don't bet on it. Old habits - 
even bad ones - are hard to break.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens