Le non-affaire Pence

  1. Is the whole Pence kerfuffle an anachronism?
  2. What if it’s not?

1

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

(Ashley Parker) In 2002, Pence was a freshman Congressman and roughly 43 years old.

I know that the reprise of this comment is a great opportunity for cattiness and partisan push-back, but has anybody made any effort to determine whether an older, less randy Vice President Mike Pence, surrounded constantly by aides (and enemies and traitors) when not at home, follows the same rule?

2

Call me “Mr. Partisan Push-Back” if you must, but for the record, I’d be supportive of the Vice President on this issue matter of marital prudence, with due regret for any collateral damage to the mentoring of young women.

I once might have thought it excessive. I might still. But an anecdote from my own life won’t let me. I’ll tell it as non-salaciously as I can.

I’m not a particularly powerful or handsome man, but I was just once in my life (and once is enough) surprised to find myself suddenly in a position of high power relative to a very womanly younger woman. She wasn’t dressed provocatively. She didn’t come on to me. Through no particular designs on me, she just pushed my every personal hot-button on what a womanly woman should be.

And to top it off, she was a judgment debtor to my client, and was begging me for mercy — from execution on assets or wage garnishment — for the sake of her children.

My mind raced. My pulse quickened. I sensed an opportunity for conquest, and it wasn’t money on my mind. I am grateful that we were in a crowded corridor outside a courtroom and not in some private place.

Those personally-unprecedented predatory feelings astonished me, triggering one of my most memorable moments of insight. “I am capable of that for which I have hundreds of times indicted other men.”

Such relative power — and more — is the everyday experience of powerful politicians in Washington DC. The “Billy Graham Rule” has less to do with wiley women than with a sensible man’s appreciation for his own weakness predatory potential. especially if he’s in a powerful and sometimes lonely position. That predatory instinct originates from within. Female supplicants and femmes fatale only compound it, and unless you want to deny that they exist at all, it’s demeaning to speak as if Pence is paranoid or so vain he probably thinks this blog is about him.

Here, by the way, is a young man, wise beyond his years, on this general topic:

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

This is not just true of infidelity, it’s true of virtually anything I’ve ever done in my life. I did not lose 70 pounds through strength of character, goodness or willpower. My character and will angles toward cheesecake, fried chicken and beer — in no particular order. I lost that weight by not fighting the battle on desire’s terms, but fighting before desire can take effect.

These are compacts I have made with myself and with my family. There are other compact we make with our country and society. I tend to think those compacts work best when we do not flatter ourselves, when we are fully aware of the animal in us.

Power changes people.

That’s Ta-Nahisi Coates in the Atlantic five years ago (H/T Rod Dreher) I’ve seen people try to say “that’s an apples and oranges comparison,” but I’m not convinced that our leaders need to abandon personal prudence, risk personal rectitude, to satisfy some theory of sexual equality and social justice.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.