Book Reviews

Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals by William J. Bennett

Of all the books that have been, and will be, written on Bill Clinton and his scandalized Presidency, surely this one will reign supreme. Written by a man with a strong political background and author of the Book of Virtues, Bennett has become the unofficial keeper of the moral flame in Washington. While not a Christian, to my knowledge, most believers will line up with his view of values, and will applaud what he has to say in The Death of Outrage.

Bennett rightly recognizes that we are fast becoming a nation of people who believe that economic stability is vastly more important than personal character. "If these arguments take root in American soil," so writes Bennett, "If they become the coin of the public realm – we will have validated them, and we will come to rue the day we did" (p.9). For, says our author, "In America, morality is central to our politics and attitudes in a way that is not the case in Europe, and precisely this moral streak is what is best about us" (p.17).

While Bennett denies that politicians are more corrupt today than in the past (pp.68-72), he does admit that Clinton’s behavior has started seeping into the culture (p.43). Even Jesse Jackson, at least at one time, was appalled by Clinton and is quoted as saying, "I can maybe work with him, but I know now who he is, what he is. There’s nothin’ he won’t do. He’s immune to shame. Move past all the nice posturing and get really down in there in him, you find absolutely nothing . . . nothing but an appetite" (p46). "Defenders of . . . Bill Clinton forget that the cost of raising the threshold of moral outrage is paid out over generations – and with compound interest" (p.50, 51). Bennett takes to task many defenders of Clinton including: Feminist their "rock solid" support of Clinton (pp.23, 64-65); Clinton’s pastor who makes this outrageous statement, "When human beings make absolutes out of a ‘cultural expression’ like heterosexuality or sexual fidelity, they have succumbed to ‘idolatry’" (p.113); Ann Landers and even Billy Graham (p.118), who are basically advocating in Clinton’s case, forgiveness without apology or repentance. Unfortunately, as G.K. Chesterton’s said, "Tolerance can become the virtue of people who do not believe in anything" (p.122).

Bennett’s fear is that history will look back and declare that, "William Jefferson Clinton really was the representative man of our time" (p.133). Bennett’s hope is that, "American citizens know better – and they will demonstrate that indeed they do know better" (p133).