I despise hypocrisy. In myself, most of all. (Yes, I admit that I am a hypocrite from time to time, but when I catch myself at it, I am very annoyed, and try very, very hard to root the hypocrisy out of my soul.) Anyway, the most hypocritical person I am aware of, the very Mother of All Hypocrites, would undoubtedly be William Bennett.
I remember Bennett very well. I was a 30-something year old Evangelical Christian during the first Bush presidency, when Bennett was appointed Drug Czar. We were all very impressed with Bennett in my Christian circle. His books were for sale in the bookstore at the mega-church where my wife and I attended. I think I even bought a copy of the Book of Virtues, but when I tried to pile through it, I found it to be too dense and dry for me to absorb. It also seemed very preachy, legalistic and moralistic (no surprise). Anyway, I did not read much of it, but I will certainly admit that for a time, I thought that Bennett was a great guy, and I agreed with his goals and actions.
Eventually, though, the media broke the story, and, like many other Christians, I got the bad news: Bennett had been concealing a sordid side of his life. He frequently travelled to Las Vegas where he engaged in high-stakes gambling. In the process he lost millions of dollars. Eventually, but only after the story broke, a contrite Bennett swore that his family had never been put at risk, that his gambling days were over, etc.
Now, aside from the obvious embarrassment, the truly astounding thing (at least to me) about all of this was that the entire time Bennett was addicted to gambling, he was the chief persecutor of the substance known as cannabis (or marijuana as it is frequently called). Under Bennett’s watch, prosecution of non-violent drug offenders skyrocketed. At it’s peak, Bennett’s Drug War had imprisoned 640,000 black men, about 1 in 4 black men in the US, and more than twice the number of black men in college, during the same time. The vast majority of these were for marijuana, a substance arguably less damaging than alcohol. And certainly not anywhere near as potentially damaging as a severe gambling addiction.
Not that there is any trouble finding hypocrisy in the War on Drugs in this country. Take the Reagans. Nancy Reagan famously coined the term “Just say no.” I remember this stuff as well. I loved Nancy at the time. She looked so proper in her beautiful dress giving her Just Say No Speech.
What I did not know at the time, though, at least according to the tell-all books by the Reagans’ daughter, Patti Davis, Nancy abused prescription drugs the entire time that she was living in the White House.
Like I said, hypocrisy is not hard to find in the so-called War on Drugs.