I followed some of Andrew Sullivan's posts regarding the Bill Bennett "scandal" over the weekend. I don't know, since I saw the story break on the Drudge Report I have been having a hard time getting too excited about it. I don't think the comparisons to Clinton are very apt; for one, Clinton was the president, Bennett is not even close. Second, Bennett hasn't done anything that could be construed as illegal. You can argue until the cows come home whether it was wise but that isn't the issue here. To say Bennett has been inconsistent is probably accurate, but I think the hubbub surrounding this is more about the glee of finding a conservative who is a little looser than previously thought than it is about revealing anything truly damaging.
Sullivan offers a reader's letter as an example to the kind of feedback he received. If this one is representative, it is way off base. Bennett is not a "professional gambler," for one, and there is no evidence that he consorted with anyone who is. For that matter, so what if he did? The author of the letter seems to think that professional gamblers exist in some fictional Sam Spade world of smoky back rooms. A true professional gambler plays poker in sanctioned tournaments. There is a gulf of difference between someone who has a gambling problem and throws away the rent money in a slot machine and true professional gambler. All evidence is that Bennett is the former (although he is in no financial straits). In addition, I guarantee Bennett didn't gamble $1.4 million dollars. The reason these amounts are always inflated is that they count the total amount gambled, which includes any money put back into a machine or laid down on a table. If I walk into a casino with $300 and win $10,000 and lose it all back, by the casino's count I have wagered $10,300. That is the only way a casino can gauge a player's level of play; what comes out of the machine is not relevant. Bennett likely gambled thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money, which is still a lot to most people, but again, so what?
UPDATE: Then there's this, which tends to support and negate my argument on separate counts. It appears that Bennett did truly gamble $1.4 million, but that was based on total losses of $8 million, which supports what I said earlier about the difference between what one wagers and what one truly loses. And his wife also claims they are not in any financial difficulty, which puts Bennett somewhere in the Charles Barkley/Michael Jordan gambling category--most of us cannot fathom the scale they are operating on. I haven't read anything by Bennett, so I don't know if he denigrates gambling in print; I tend to doubt it or we would have heard about it by now. This is still a story with a lot of smoke and no fire.
posted by the wolf |
9:10 AM on this