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    Death Of Outrage Essay (1522 words)

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    William J. Bennett, secretary of education and chair of the National Endowmentfor the Humanities under President Reagan captured the public imagination withthe best-selling Book of Virtues, a compendium of other people’s writing thathad something to teach about morality. In his new book, Bennett advances his owncredo of right and wrong, and it is far less compelling. It is a slim book witha correspondingly slim premise: that the American public’s failure to beoutraged at President Clinton’s lies about his private life is evidence of our”moral and intellectual disarmament. ” The book has six brief chapterswith the grandiose titles “Sex” (first of course),”Character,” “Politics,” “Law,””Judgment” ? and “Ken Starr. ” Each chapter presents anitalicized “Defense of President Clinton” followed by Bennett’srefutation of that defense.

    Claiming to exercise “sound reasoning,”Bennett sets himself up as the arbiter of morality and American ideals. Theresult reads like a partisan screed. Bennett is outraged because so manyAmericans are not outraged at the president, even if they believe that theallegations of “sexual and criminal wrongdoing are true. ” Combiningthe words “sexual and criminal” is at the heart of Bennett’s thesis? and his linguistic sleight of hand. Many people do not endorse thecriminalization of consensual sex. Bennett may not like this, but that does notmake him any more morals than they do.

    One might argue, in fact, that it evincesa higher moral sense to distinguish between covering up crimes and a situationin which the only crime is the cover-up. Bennett repeatedly refers to”crimes,” “felony crimes,” “criminal conduct,” 284words “criminal allegations,” “criminal wrongdoing,””criminal conspiracy,” and “criminal cover-up” ?accusation by accretion and repetition rather than reason. Ah, words words. Bennett’s language reveals a pervasive double standard.

    Defenses of Clinton are”the words of hired guns, spinners and partisans. ” He attributes thearguments he refutes to “Clinton defenders,” “Clintonloyalists,” “Clinton apologists,” and “feminists. ” (Wedo not read of Starr defenders, loyalists or apologists, or of Clintonattackers, haters or enemies. ) All these label great, but the word”apologist” is particularly underhanded: It reframes explanations anddefenses as apologies, implying unspecified misdeeds. In Starr, Bennett seesonly “clumsiness,” “missteps,” “lapses of politicaljudgment” and “a certain tone-deafness. ” Ignoring criticism ofStarr from a wide variety of sources, including former special prosecutors andindependent counsels from both parties, he blames Starr’s low popularity on”a well-orchestrated and relentless smear campaign” ? even as hedismisses Hillary Clinton’s reference to a “vast right-wingconspiracy” against her husband as “fantastic.

    ” Bennett’ssubstitution of implication for reasoning is particularly evident in an appendixthat juxtaposes statements made about Watergate with statements made about thecurrent scandals: for example, quotes by both Nixon and Clinton that they wouldlike to get on with the job of running the country. These juxtapositions implythat the substance of the scandals is comparable. But the most revealingcomparison with Watergate actually comes early in the book: Bennett suggests a”thought experiment” which describes moves that actually occurred inWatergate as if they had covered up a sexual liaison ? actions such asbreaking into a psychiatrist’s office in search of information to discredit awitness, pressuring the IRS to investigate reporters, and establishing a”slush fund” to pay hush money. Bennett’s purpose is to 320 words ask,If we are willing to forgive Clinton’s lying to cover up a sexual affair, wouldwe excuse any misbehavior on those grounds? But the section actually has theeffect of dramatizing how much more egregious the events of Watergate were. There are other instances in which Bennett’s examples support the opposite ofwhat he supposes.

    He writes, “Interpreting the actions of a presidentsolely through a legal prism habituates Americans to think like lawyers insteadof citizens . . . . The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have abeneficial influence on society.

    ” But in this spirit, legal terms like”obstruction of justice” and “suborning of perjury” conjureup, in most people’s minds, matters far more weighty than engaging in and tryingto cover up illicit sex. In rejecting this “legal prism,” manyAmericans are thinking like citizens rather than lawyers. Faulty, slippery slopearguments abound. For example, after quoting citizens who said, of Clinton’ssexual behavior, “Who are we to judge?” Bennett writes, “Withoutbeing ‘judgmental,’ Americans would never have put an end to slavery, outlawedchild labor, emancipated women, or ushered in the civil rights movement.

    “But the distinction between private acts like having sex and public offenseslike slavery, child labor, and forbidding women and blacks to vote is preciselythe distinction many Americans are making ? and it is a highly moral one. Bennett displays contempt for average Americans, calling us fools because we donot view the president the same way he does. Rather than seeking to understandthe moral underpinnings of positions others take, he dismisses them as debased,lacking in morality. The people may be the wiser ones when they refuse to reducecomplex notions of “character” and “morality” to personalsexual conduct. How about the morality of a country as wealthy as the UnitedStates being the only modern industrialized society that does not provideuniversal 308 words health-care coverage to all its citizens? Or the morality ofthe ever widening gap between rich and poor? In this light, when voters say theycare more about the economy or health care than about Monica Lewinsky, they arenot just expressing petty self-interest; they are also taking moral stances.

    Tomy mind and perhaps to the minds of those Bennett deplores, the real moralquestion is not: Did he or didn’t he have sex/ lie about it/ apologize for it,but How have we all participated in and been sullied by a political, legal andjournalistic system that has focused public attention on the president’s privatelife rather than the many problems facing the country and the world? Many whorefuse to support the president’s impeachment do not defend his sexual behavior. They just say that this behavior should not be the object of an expensiveinvestigation and media coverage. Bennett’s diatribe is unfair because it isunbalanced. He blames only Clinton, and rejects or ignores any roles played byothers.

    The public is not incapable of outrage; they simply have differentobjects for it than Bennett would like them to. There is plenty of outrage atLinda Tripp’s betrayal of friendship when she (illegally) taped conversationswith Monica Lewinsky and turned them over to lawyers deposing Clinton, leadingto his denials that constitute the much-touted “lying under oath,” butthis does not count as morality for Bennett; instead, it irritates him. “Why all the venom directed at Ms. Tripp?” he asks. Many also feeloutrage at the pouring of public funds into an independent counsel investigationthat moved far afield from the Whitewater events it was initially charged withinvestigating.

    When allegations against the president reached a crescendo, sodid his approval ratings. Bennett sees this as indifference, which he bemoans,as an abandonment of “longstanding 317 words American ideals. ” But theapproval ratings didn’t just stay the same; they shot up. This is not a sign ofindifference. It is a backlash, an expression of outrage against what I call”the argument culture” ? relentless attacks on figures like thepresident by political opponents and the press. There are many who agree withBennett that no president should be “above the law,” but also feelthat a president should not be pursued with laws that would not be applied toother citizens.

    Such sentiments uphold the longstanding American ideal offairness. Bennett sees the public “giving license not only to Mr. Clinton’scorruption but possibly to our own as well. ” But jumping on the bandwagonof denunciation gives license to future overzealous prosecutors, civillitigants, and political opponents to try to destroy leaders they dislike bylaunching assaults on their private lives and character rather than debatingthem on the issues.

    According to critics don’t look for President Clinton’spicture in The Book of Virtues; best-selling author and former Secretary ofEducation William J. Bennett considers Bill Clinton uniquely unvirtuous. In thewake of the White House intern sex scandal, Bennett accuses Clinton of crimes atleast as serious as those committed by Richard Nixon during the Watergateimbroglio. Rising above anti-Clinton polemics, The Death or Outrage urges theAmerican public–which initially displayed not much more than a collectiveshrug–to take issue with the president’s private and public conduct.

    Clintonshould be judged by more than the state of the economy, implores Bennett. Thecommander in chief sets the moral tone of the nation; a reckless personal lifeand repeated lying from the bully pulpit call for a heavy sanction. The Americanpeople should demand nothing less, says the onetime federal drug czar. In eachchapter, Bennett lays out the rhetorical defenses made on Clinton’s behalf (thecase against him is “only about 279 words sex,” harsh judgmentalismhas no place in modern society, independent counsel Kenneth Starr is a partisanprosecutor, etc. ) and picks them apart.

    He may not convince everybody, but thisis an effective conservative brief against Bill Clinton Today we see littlepublic outrage about Bill Clinton’s misconduct. With enormous skill, thepresident and his advisors have constructed a defensive wall built of bricksleft over from Watergate: diversion, half-truth, equivocation, and sophistry. Itis a wall that has remained unbreached. Until now. In The Death of Outrage: BillClinton and the Assault on American Ideals, former cabinet secretary andbest-selling author William J. Bennett dismantles the president’s defenses,brick by evasive brick, and analyzes the meaning of the Clinton scandals: whythey matter, what the public reaction to them means, and the social andpolitical damage they have already inflicted on America.

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    Death Of Outrage Essay (1522 words). (2019, Jan 03). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/data-marts-advantages-disadvantages-47612/

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