Liberals Attack Mike Pence for Being Faithful to His Wife
Late Tuesday, The Washington Post's Ashley Parker published a story about Vice President Mike Pence's relationship with his wife. By Thursday morning, thousands of liberals had attacked Pence as a sexist bigot for simple steps he reportedly takes to honor his wife and avoid any appearance of infidelity in their marriage.
"This is a medieval vision of every man as an incorrigible adulterer or rapist, lest he be restrained by his wife's presence by his side," tweeted Arnand Giridharidas, an author who used to write for The New York Times.
What is Mike Pence's alleged "medieval vision"? As Parker reported, "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."
Perhaps, following the major scandal of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Pence decided to avoid any appearance of impropriety or infidelity, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Mike Pence had served in Congress for years, and had major political ambitions. He did end up becoming governor of Indiana and vice president to boot.
Pence and his wife (not to mention his campaign manager or chief of staff) may have set ground rules to make certain no enterprising photographer could snap a picture intended as blackmail later on — or a juicy story on a left-wing website. Stranger things have happened.
But Social Justice Warriors on Twitter had a different interpretation — Pence's personal self-limitations are ... the right-wing version of Sharia law!
"Sincere question," tweeted left-wing journalist and cancer survivor Xeni Jardin. "How is this different from extreme repressive interpretations of Islam ('Sharia Law!') mocked by people like Mike Pence."
Answering Miss Jardin is rather easy — Pence's self-limitations are not intended to be normative for anyone besides Mike Pence. They are not imposed by a particular religion or denomination, but are politically understandable (if perhaps rather stringent) voluntary ground rules.
But nevermind — according to Jardin, Pence's very eyes reveal he's a rapist.
Greg Carlstrom, a Middle East correspondent for the Times and The Economist, took up Miss Jardin's Sharia comparison: "Mike Pence sounds a lot like the Muslim Brotherhood officials I've interviewed."
Since Pence is a committed evangelical Protestant Christian, liberals view any sort of traditional commitment — to marital fidelity, for example — as suspicious and "medieval."
"Is Mike Pence a robot sent to us from 1600s Virginia, a closet philanderer, or just a regular old sexist? Good news: he can be all three!" tweeted Emily Bengtson, a liberal campaign activist for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Planned Parenthood.
Others attempted to explain the alleged sexism of the religious right using Pence's ground rules. "If you want to understand the conservative xian [Christian] orientation re: women: Mike Pence won't be alone in a room w any woman who's not his wife," tweeted Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers.
Spiers added that Pence's practice is "indicative of notion that women are primarily sexual temptresses."
Oh, and there's BuzzFeed's senior culture writer, Anne Helen Petersen, who suggested that Pence's self-imposed ground rules "are part of rape culture."
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh attracted a great deal of attention on Twitter by defending the vice president. "If you laugh at Pence for respecting his marriage, it's probably because you've never been in a healthy one," Walsh declared.
He later asked, "Seriously what's the appropriate reason for a married person to go out for a meal alone with a member of the other sex (outside of family)?"
Slate economy writer Jordan Weissmann mocked Walsh. "It's 2017, and some men are still literally incapable of conceiving of women as friends," Weissmann quipped.
"Yes I'm a straight, normal, married man so I don't go out making friends with women, nor do I have any desire to," Walsh responded. This might have gone a bit far, but Walsh's point is clear — as a married man committed to his wife, he does not seek opportunities that might lead to temptation. Eating dinner alone with a woman who is not family or his wife seems like a date to Walsh, and it is appropriate for him to avoid that. This isn't some weird Sharia-style sexism, it's common decency.
As a married man myself, I avoid such situations. I do make friends with women, but I do not seek them out like my friends who are "on the prowl," as it were. Marriage, at least among conservative Christians, is a committed sexual relationship which excludes that kind of intimacy with people besides a spouse.
Christians also know themselves to be sinful. When a man gets married, sexual temptations do not go away. Christians ought to avoid temptation as much as possible — that doesn't mean Christian men should treat all women as "sexual temptresses," but it does mean that they should establish ground rules to avoid temptation.
Power throws an even greater wrench into the situation. Politicians make great targets for journalists and opposition operatives who aim to get a scoop or bring down a big name. Power corrupts, and many women are attracted to powerful men.
As Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, noted, "Imagine how history would view Bill Clinton if he forbade himself from being alone with young, vulnerable women."
HeatStreet writer Stephen Miller quipped that "Huma Abedin would kill to be married to Mike Pence right now." Abedin, Hillary Clinton's long-time aide, was married to Representative Anthony Weiner, whose name is now synonymous with sexual scandal. Although Abedin announced she would be separating from him in August of last year, it was recently reported she plans to give him another chance.
Given these facts, it makes sense on multiple levels for Pence to lay ground rules for himself. It doesn't mean he views women as anything less than men — it just means that he is dedicated to his marriage and to political propriety.
As a Christian, as a politician, and as a husband, Pence is dedicated to God, to public probity, and to his wife. That's no scandal, but liberals refusing to understand it emphatically is.