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Bill Bennett, Bob Bennett, and the Criminal Element


Bill Bennett and Bob Bennett are brothers.

Bill Bennett is the social conservative pundit.

Bob Bennett is the white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

Bob Bennett is the lawyer for New York Times’ reporter Judith Miller.

As you might recall — and how could you forget? — Bill Bennett took to the airwaves a couple of weeks ago espoused that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” He then quickly added, “That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”

Of course, Bill Bennett was talking about street crime.

If he were to address the issue of white collar and corporate crime — the kind that his brother Bob defends every day for a very nice living — then he might have said something like — “you could abort every white male destined to go to Harvard Business School, and your crime rate would go down.”

Now that would be impolite.

But the reality is that crimes committed by the powerful — both in government and in corporations — inflicts far more damage on society than all crime committed by the powerless.

Let’s take the crimes of Harvard Business School graduate George Bush.

The President’s cronies are being investigated for leaking classified information to various reporters, including to Judith Miller.

(By the way, we agree with Patrick Buchanan who was on MSNBC’s Hardball Show last night and observed that Bush and Cheney’s real success in the whole Judith Miller/Valerie Plame episode was turning “the New York Times, the newspaper of record in this country, into a propaganda organ for the war party.”)

Why not an investigation for war crimes?

In the words of former Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson — whom newly confirmed Chief Justice John Roberts says he “admires” — the supreme international crime is the war of aggression.

And guess who are the architects of the most recent war of aggression?

George Bush and Dick Cheney and their associates.

With an assist from Congress — including Presidential hopefuls John Kerry and Hillary Clinton — which for voted to authorize the war.

Do you see any of the architects of the illegal war in Iraq on trial for mass murder?

Why not?

If putting Saddam on trial for mass killing is a good thing, then putting the architects of the most recent war of aggression is a good thing too.

(And by mass killing we mean approaching 2,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis in an unjustifiable war of aggression.)

Despite the wave of crime by the powerful that has swept over the country in recent years — and inflicted far more damage on society that all street crime combined — when people with the institutional megaphones like Bill Bennett use the word “crime,” they mean street crime.

(When Bob Bennett talks about crime, he invariably means white-collar and corporate crime — but that’s because his clients are paying him big bucks to clear their names.)

As a result, this bias has been hard wired into our brains.

Here’s a quick test.

We will write down a word.

And you tell us the first image that comes to your mind.

Ready?

Looter.

Okay, and the first image to come to your mind?

Do you conjure up a black kid in New Orleans wading through the waters with DVDs stuffed in his pockets?

Why not Conrad Black, also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour?

Lord Black is under investigation along with his associates — by the same Patrick Fitzgerald who is investigating the Bush leak affair — of looting $400 million from Hollinger International, the esteemed publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post, among myriad other publications.

A special 513-report on the looting at Hollinger, issued by Richard Breeden, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, called Black’s management team at Hollinger a corporate kleptocracy.

That would be a bureaucracy of kleptomaniacs. (Credit for the looter imagery goes to Joe Loughran, a Republican white-collar crime pundit we interviewed recently.)

So the image of a looter is that of the black kid with some DVDs stuffed into his coat pocket.

And not of Lord Black of Crossharbour?

And the image of the war criminal is that of Saddam Hussein.

And not George Bush?

And Bill Bennett says that if we aborted all of the black kids, the crime rate would go down?

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org, and on the steering committee of the Center for Corporate Policy. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

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