Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bill Bennett, Genocidaire?

Former Drug Czar and long-time Republican presidential appointee Bill Bennett is a lot of things. Here's Brad DeLong's laundry list:
Bill Bennett is a hypocrite, a loathsome fungus on the tree of American politics, a man who has worked unceasingly to make America a worse place—when he's not publishing the work of others under his own name, or rolling the dice at Las Vegas while claiming that America's poor would be rich if only they had the righteousness and moral fiber than he does.
But, as DeLong points out, one of the things he's not is a despicable racist hellbent on destroying the African-American youth of America.

This simple fact has been left out in much of the coverage following his jaw-dropping comments on his national radio program, Bill Bennett's Morning in America. What has been widely reported is Bennett's assertion that, "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose—you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

As a stand-alone comment, this is disgusting, racist and inexcusable. But, in the interest of the truth (that pesky thing), it is important to introduce the context in which these words were uttered—a context that is rarely fleshed out in news reports. Bennett was fielding a call from some nut who was postulating the if the abortion rate in this country hadn't been so high for so many years, we would have a fiscally sound Social Security system now.

Bennett's response was to introduce his abort-black-babies theory as a reductio ad absurdum argument. Immediately following the offensive remarks—and much less frequently quoted in the media—was this: "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."

Clearly, Bennett's point was that abortion is not the appropriate lens through which to view such things as economics or crime. That doesn't let him off the hook for the racist assumption of his postulation about the crime rate, but it's only fair to view his comments in their original, unedited context.

There are undoubtedly statistics to back up Bennett's equation of African-Americans to crime. It would be disingenuous to argue otherwise. Perhaps Bennett should take his own advice, however. If it is inappropriate to look at economic matters solely through the lens of abortion, it is certainly inadequate to look at crime only in terms of race. Bennett should know better. The fact that he seems not to leaves some questions about Bennett disturbingly open.
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