USA Today (Sunday, on line) says that Bill Bennetts wife says that he hasnt lost millions and he is "not addicted" to gambling. But, because she is so irritated by the stories, "she said her husband may have pulled his last slot-machine lever. Hes never going again, she said." I have never met Bills wife, but I am betting that she is right. He has probably pulled his last lever.
I agree with Hayward below ("The Bennett Affair"): He should address this and should do it quickly, for all the reasons that Hayward lays out. Maybe this brief story on what his wife had to say about it (the fact that she was willing to be quoted is interesting) is the start of him coming clean.
Yet, it must be said that most of this story is not new. Bennett has been known to like gambling, and stories (as I recollect) have been run on this passion of his. So we should not be surprised that the same people who didnt think Clintons odd habits (addictions?) were worthy of the name of vice are now going after Bennett; so I can see why folks would be inclined to defend him. I dont think a defense is necessary. He should explain himself, thats all. He owes his many friends and supporters that. And even if he gambled away millions (assuming it wasnt bread money), I for one am not sending him to I forget which Circle of Hell. I dont gamble; except for an occasional poker game with friends in graduate school, but that really wasnt gambling. They were such poor poker players that there wasnt any chance involved: I never lost! By the way, I dont like the word addiction, it always has a "physical" connotation to it; passion, or habit, is better in part because it is deeper, it is of the soul, not the body, hence harder to break; I always get the sense that if something is an addiction, people think there is a chemical imbalance involved and if you just give the person the right medicine (read another chemical) it will go away. Not so with a deep habit or a passion, when a vice, it is much harder to break.
Let me tell you a quick story about Bennett. It was 1986 and I had just been appointed to the Education Department (by Bennett) as Director of International Education. One of my first important meetings was with four presidents of four of the most prestigious universities in the country (from both coasts). I wont name them. They spent an hour and a half over dinner talking about the Secretary of Education (who held both a PhD and a law degree) as if he were a hick with only a kindergarten education. They were explicit in saying that they took nothing he said about education (and higher education especially) seriously. Bennett was an idiot and a fool and they were going to break him. I was--in my naivete--shocked by this attitude. I couldnt believe that four such distinguished and accomplished men could talk this way about my boss, the Secretary of Education; never mind the imprudence of speaking so boldly in front of me who, they well knew, had just been appointed by Bennett. From their point of view I was a no-body, might as well have been a spot on the table cloth. But what shocked me above all else is the last thing they said about Bennett before leaving the table: One of them said that he had seen Bennett at a gas station, putting gas in his old and tacky Toyota; he was putting the gas in himself, didnt even have an attendant do it. How low, how tacky. And you should have seen that car, an old run-down, rusty thing. He should be ashamed of himself, one of them said. I had put up with a lot during the dinner, but this was the final straw. I barked at them that Bennett didnt have money, hed been a student and an academic his whole life, and that this was no crime or vice. Not everyone could have the income of the president of Stanford, I said. Well, since then Bill has made a lot of money. And if he has blown a lot of it through gambling--as long as it isnt milk money--thats his business and it isnt a crime (moral or otherwise), although it is at best foolish. It would have been much worse if he were to have given gifts to one of these univesities, at least one of which was an alma mater. Still, he ought to respond to the stories; it could encourage a conversation on habits, vices and virtues.