Until we were so rudely interrupted by President Bush's latest Supreme Court pick, we were having an illuminating squabble over Bill Bennett. And since Bennett's remarks on his radio show have already morphed into something of an urban legend in many quarters, I think they're worth revisiting.
A quick recap: Bennett got a call from a listener suggesting that Social Security was in financial straights because so many taxpayers had been aborted after Roe vs. Wade. The caller was making an ostensibly pro-life point. But Bennett, also a pro-lifer, objected. That's not the way you should look at abortion, he said. Such utilitarianism is a distraction and morally unreliable. He cited the book "Freakonomics," by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, which argues, among other things, that the increase in abortions since Roe vs. Wade has contributed considerably to the drop in the crime rate.
And then Bennett offered the infamous hypothetical, saying: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could - if that were your sole purpose - you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
Now, many of you probably know all of this so far. But some probably do not because you've heard about this second hand. And Democrats and many liberals have been trying to distort what Bennett said. Former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe: "The point he was trying to make, I guess, he said, you know, if you were to go out there and kill the black babies, the crime would go down." Ted Kennedy and a predictably long list of others have called him a racist. Radio host Ed Schultz said: Bennett is "out there advocating the murder of all black babies."
There are too many ways in which this anti-Bennett backlash is cheap and tawdry to discuss here. (Though I should note that a considerable minority of liberal writers who loathe Bennett refuse to participate in the witch hunt.)
My first objection is more of a delicious irony. Notice how so many righteously offended liberals keep referring to fetuses as people. In The New York Times, Bob Herbert proclaims that Bennett considers "exterminating blacks would be a most effective crime-fighting tool." Schultz and McAuliffe say Bennett wants to exterminate "babies."