Thursday, September 29, 2005


The ABC's of Bennett

My previous post on Bennett was dismissive -- not giving the comments any credence. I've decided a slightly more comprehensive response might be needed.

First, Bennett might have been wise to follow the advice that I attempted to pass along to Rush Limbaugh two years ago (sub. req'd) when he asserted that Donovan McNabb was getting a free pass from a media that wanted to see a black quarterback succeed: "[H]ardly anything annoys conservatives more than when liberals introduce race into an issue when it has no place. And that's exactly what Limbaugh did." Add Bennett to that.

He could have made his point about how dangerous it was to make broad sociological "what ifs" when it comes to abortion -- without defaulting to race. Indeed, Freakonomics analyzes it from the standpoint of class.

Secondly, how does he " know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime...your crime rate would go down"? By his own previous statement, "there is just so much that you don't know." If his implication is that black people are responsible for the crime rate, well, if they're gone, what are the demographics of the group that is now "at the bottom" of the social ladder? In short, he doesn't "know," because by definition you can't know a counter-factual argument.

Finally, Bennett -- and, frankly, any other conservative finding themselves discussing racial issues -- should consider stepping into the shoes of the group under discussion. Stereotypes attach themselves to all sorts of groups. Bennett chose to default to a preferred negative stereotypical characterization of blacks -- crime. It's a stereotype, of course, that the broader media was happy to sell -- as seen in the now-discredited Katrina crime-wave reporting.

How wonderful it would have been if Bennett had stopped to consider the preferred negative stereotypical characterization of conservatives and Republicans -- racist, intolerant and insensitive. In considering that, he might well have chosen a better example for the point he wanted to make. In defaulting to the black stereotype, he helped provide confirmation of the conservative one. Perfect. Add one more to the honor roll. Oh, Howard Dean must think he's died and gone to heaven this week.

(The author of RAGGED THOTS will appear on Friday's "Good Morning America," discussing Bill Bennett's interesting ideas. Don't know the time as yet, so just Tivo/tape the entire darn thing!!!)

UPDATE: ABC's transcript can be found here. All my really cool comments ended up on the cutting room floor -- but the gist of them are right above!

UPDATE II: The White House weighs in. The ubiquitous Mr. Stephen J. Kelso has a must-read over on HIS blog (for a change )

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