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’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.”
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 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.