The preoccupation with Bill Bennett's gambling has reaffirmed something I long ago realized: Only conservatives can be hypocrites.
Can you think of one prominent liberal ever labeled a hypocrite in the mainstream press? President Bill Clinton was labeled many things for his extramarital affairs and his lying, but never a hypocrite. But when the press discovers flawed behavior in the personal life of a prominent conservative, he is discredited as a hypocrite.
Why is this? Because you can only be a hypocrite if you violate standards that you promote or judge, and liberals rarely promote or judge personal behavior. Their moral preoccupations almost exclusively concern social positions. Liberals judge people by their positions on global warming, not by how they behave.
That is why conservative Bill Bennett was dismissed as a hypocrite for gambling while liberal Jesse Jackson, though a clergyman, was almost never labeled a hypocrite after the public learned that he had committed adultery, fathered a child out of wedlock and misappropriated funds earmarked for civil rights work. Jackson has the right liberal positions on social issues. Likewise Woody Allen, Norman Mailer, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and many other liberals who committed far worse sins. None is labeled a hypocrite.
This is not to say that conservatives cannot be hypocrites. Of course they can. Had Bill Bennett railed against gambling or argued that a public figure who gambles forfeits his moral authority, he would qualify as one. But everyone acknowledges that gambling was never one of Bennett's issues, and that he had acknowledged doing so long ago.
But what about Bennett's book attacking former President Clinton for his personal conduct (The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals)? Doesn't that book make Bennett a hypocrite?
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”