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Caveat lector

27 February 2001

Our current howler (part II): Czar search

Synopsis: Every time Bill Bennett opened his mouth, you saw the real truth in his thesis.

Commentary by Bill Bennett
Larry King Live, CNN, 2/26/01

The Morality Kingpin stated his thesis. We think it went exactly like this:

BENNETT: I mean, just as long—you know, it's still the greatest country in the world. It's still, you know, the place that everybody wants to come but we have to figure out what happened here, and we have to realize even though the economy was good and things were going great, we still do not get a leave to—or at least an opportunity to take leave of our senses, and not judge people in terms of what they do, in terms of their conduct, in terms of whether we can trust their word. Integrity and honesty is what it's about.

We agree—"integrity and honesty is what it's about." And that's why we're puzzled by Bennett. For example, here is the very first thing he said when his turn came last night on King Live:

KING: This is his first time speaking out on this, first time on the Vignali case. What do you make of that, Bill?

BENNETT: Those guys were very polite, Larry. Mr. Vignali went to jail because he was involved in distributing 800 pounds of cocaine. His lawyer said, no, it wasn't that bad, just a thousand kilos of cocaine.

Do you have any idea of how much damage 1,000 kilos of cocaine can do? Well, 800 pounds of cocaine could effectively provide one rock of crack for every kid in Los Angeles. It's 1,000 kilos less, but still, a substantial amount of cocaine.

Who were "those guys?" Bennett was referring to King's previous guests, one of whom was Vignali's lawyer. But—as usual; what else is new—the Czar misstated what had been said. Here was lawyer Ron Meshbesher's actual statement, one of the first things he said:

MESHBESHER: Well, if you look at the facts of this case, [Vignali] got, if not the longest sentence, one of the longest sentences of about 30 people. His involvement in this case was relatively minorThe government tried to make him out as a kingpin, either a manager or a leader or a supervisor or an organizer. The judge specifically found that wasn't true. And now they're trying to claim he's responsible for 800 pounds of cocaine. That wasn't true either because the judge made a specific finding that he was responsible for at least five kilograms, and no more than 15. So, he was not the big drug dealer that the media has made him out to be.

That what was the lawyer had said. Bennett told a much improved story.

But then, anyone who follows our Great Czar around will find a pattern of this sort of thing. Let's trail him all through last night's program:

KING: What do you make of Hugh Rodham—paid to lobby for Vignali and then returning the money—and Mrs. Clinton's insistence she did not know?

BENNETT: Yeah, well, you know, as Chris Hitchens pointed out, why was she rushing money back unless she thought something wrong had been done? What does this mean, she doesn't know? Did you see Saturday Night Live? I know I shouldn't plug another station—

That is Bennett's odd concept of logic. He implies that Senator Clinton was lying when she said she didn't know her brother was working on pardons. Why did she immediately ask him to send back the money, Bennett asks, unless she thought something wrong had been done? I trust that it isn't necessary to point out the absurdity of this chain of "reasoning." I have no way of knowing what HRC knew. But, according to her account, she told her brother to return the dough because she knew he shouldn't have been involved. In what imaginable way on the face of the earth does that show that Mrs. Clinton is lying?

But Bennett—swollen great with pride—no longer much bothers with logic or accuracy. He waddles onto TV shows, and sends out what comes to his mind:

BENNETT: Anyway, [Saturday Night Live] had an opening bet with Hillary and Bill and Hugh and Roger, and the boys go through the things they have done, and she turns to the boys and says, you know, I'm just ashamed of you guys; you are terrible, you are an embarrassment, you are always acting irresponsibly. And they look down and she looks down and then she bursts out laughing. Because it is obviously a joke. She doesn't know that Hugh Rodham is in the White House? What's he doing in the White House?

To which the obvious answer might be: What's Bill Bennett doing on television? Hillary Clinton has never claimed that she didn't know her brother was in the White House. Does Bill Bennett ever get anything right? Or do czars simply bypass such twaddle?

Lazy; corrupt; dissembling; dishonest—Bennett is the symbol of the modern press. Here, for example, is something he said as Larry let the Czar take his leave:

BENNETT: I hope Al Gore speaks out about this at some point because we're hearing these stories about Gore going in to see Clinton, you know the story, in the White House. I would like to know, because I'll tell you, you know, I'm not a Gore guy. I'm not a Gore supporter. I think there's a lot wrong with Al Gore. But I'll tell you, he had to carry the albatross that this administration represents, and he wasn't given a clear shot at this because of the Clintons.

The Czar told Larry that he's "not a Gore guy." Back in October, he was slightly more frank. Here's the way his Journal op-ed began back on October 11:

BENNETT: Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar.

As we noted at the time, Bennett used the Three Full Names we reserve for presidents—and for serial killers. Unfortunately, the article he wrote about Gore that day was full of misstatements and outright dissembling. But, as we again noted on King Live last night, sometimes czars grow too much great to worry about abstractions like truth. Truth is for the little people, to adapt what Queen Leona once said.

Bill Bennett is the picture of the modern press corps—that group of pretenders who have named themselves kings. Last night, our bloated Czar wasn't trying real hard to observe simple rules of logic or sense. But then, we invite you to look back at his piece from October. We were warned, folks. Be very, very scared.


Smile-a-while (2/27/01)

Seeing the glass half full: If you want to remain a part of the court, you work hard to stay right on message. Larry Sabato was working hard. And here's what he told Fred and Mort:

FRED BARNES: Do you think he's purposely—Bush, I mean—purposely trying to draw this contrast [with Clinton]? You know, he didn't play up the bombing raid against Iraq, said it was just routine, you know, he's punctual, Clinton never was, and so on.

SABATO: I don't think he's playing it up. That's him. The fact of the matter is, he's very different than Bill Clinton in almost every way, which is why about half of the American people voted for him. [Our emphasis]

Hay-yo! Bush is very different from Bill, which is why about half of the American people voted for him! You really had to see this one, friends! If Bush had been elected with 60%, the comment would at least have made sense. But with this gang—as we note with Czar Bennett—making sense ain't the deal any more.