The Pence-Graham standard

Marriage | The vice president sets an ethical example that others in Washington should follow
by Cal Thomas
Posted on Thursday, April 6, 2017, at 4:09 pm

Millennials and others of a certain age have not lived in a time when American culture praised marital fidelity and roundly condemned the opposite.

How far we have come (or gone) as a country and culture was evidenced by the reelection of Bill Clinton after his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

This isn’t about that. It’s about Vice President Mike Pence and his recently rediscovered standard of refusing to dine alone with a woman not his wife, or showing up at a place where alcohol is served without her.

This is sometimes called the Billy Graham standard, after the famed evangelist. It isn’t about prudishness, as some have claimed in their criticism of Pence, it is about preserving one’s reputation and “avoiding the appearance of evil,” as evangelicals like Graham and Pence would put it.

Some years ago, Rev. Graham spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. There was a reception before his speech in the bar area. One of the guests asked Graham if he could have his picture taken with him, and Graham turned to me to ask if I would hold his soft drink while the picture was taken.

I later asked him why he did this. He said it was because some people who saw the photo could conclude that he was drinking an alcoholic beverage, a no-no among Southern Baptists, though some seem to have modified their position in recent years.

Graham once told me about his own policy of never being alone with a woman other than his wife, or having a woman pick him up at an airport when he traveled, unless she was with her husband. It is a standard I employ because it is the best protection against all sorts of negative things that could happen. Aside from possible temptations, someone could read something into a picture that has the potential of damaging one’s reputation.

Pence doesn’t tell others how to live their lives. He just set a standard for his marriage.

Pence’s comment was printed in a recent Washington Post profile, but he first made it in 2002 when he was a freshman in Congress at the height of the Gary Condit scandal involving one of Condit’s interns. Pence doesn’t tell others how to live their lives. He just set a standard for his marriage. His spokesman, Marc Lotter, tells me, “Clearly, it is working.”

Some feminists have written that Pence’s policy somehow harms women from making progress in the workplace. Recent newspaper columns by former female congressional staff members refute that claim.

I’ve been in Pence’s office. Many women work there, including his deputy chief of staff, his national security adviser, his director of intergovernmental affairs, and their top deputies.

So what’s the problem? I think it is that the Pence “lifestyle,” for want of a better word, stands as a rebuke to those who have looser moral standards. Deep down inside most of us know right from wrong.

After all the criticism about President Trump’s past with women, one might think the critics would welcome a wholesome example like Mike Pence. But in Washington, some people like having it both ways.

Listen to Cal Thomas’ commentary on the April 6 edition of The World and Everything in It.

© 2017 Tribune Content Agency LLC.

Cal Thomas

Cal contributes weekly commentary to WORLD Radio. Over the last five decades, he worked for NBC News, FOX News, and USA Today and began his syndicated news column in 1984. Cal is the author of 10 books, including What Works: Commonsense Solutions to the Nation's Problems. Follow him on Twitter @CalThomas.

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  •  Paul B. Taylor's picture
    Paul B. Taylor
    Posted: Thu, 04/06/2017 09:42 pm

    This article is a part of the light at the end of the tunnel that we, as conservatives, will anticipate as we have an emotional attachment to what we will have in the near future.  President Donald Trump has defeated the socialist movement started by President Obama by undoing Obama's work, especially and including executive orders.  He is bringing us optimism, and he is energizing patriots in our move forward and away from tyrannical liberalism. There is still much work to be done, but we are on the road, and we will arrive at our destination.  Simply put: we are starting to feel good.

  • DWBrown
    Posted: Tue, 04/11/2017 10:30 am

    Indiana, You are correct. The simple and they are a great number currently in America, will see their wrong and the correct way in the next four years while the evil in them screams with their eyes open and ears covered. Doesn't it seem clear that if the Alabama Governor that is currently leaving his office would not have had to if he had the same standards for office as our current Vice President Pence and so thankful for him.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Tue, 04/11/2017 11:10 am

    Sounds like the Alabama Governor has roughly the same sexual morals as our current President, so I'm not sure why either of you guys is celebrating the supposed rise of virtue through Republican electoral politics based merely on the virtue signaling of the VP whom Trump picked to buy the evangelical vote. Or at least, that's the picture I'm looking at over here.

  • DWBrown
    Posted: Tue, 04/11/2017 03:17 pm

    Hans, I mostly and only plan to add comment about a story, but was interested by your comment that seems to be fishing, so I thought I would bite and explain my encouragement that God saw fit to give us our current President and Vice President. I have age on me that remembers a very different people in America, sure there was bad then, but not on the scale we have today. President Trump has done wrong various times in his life, but any "one" wrong you or I have done in our life puts us equal in God's eyes with the worst person on earth. When he was just Donald Trump I saw him in the audience of Pastor David Jerimiah and believe me there is a big difference between Pastor David Jerimiah and Pastor Jerimiah Wright. When someone listens to Pastor David Jerimiah, they will know who Jesus is. So, I know that he has heard about Jesus and will be responsible for accepting or denying him just like you and me. We did not know Ronald Reagan had a strong Christian belief and values until his actions proved it. President Trump also remembers a better American and I hope with God's guidance, wisdom, strength, and protection, he continues and does not give up.