Friday, March 31, 2017

Some Pence For My Thoughts

Vice President Mike Pence (R-IN) has recently drawn quite a bit of media reaction for his statement that he will not dine alone with a woman who is not his wife.  For example, People discusses some "internet reactions" and Adequate Man asks, "What does Mike Pence think happens at restaurants?"  It's interesting that the same people, generally speaking, who accuse President Trump of disrespect for women, based on his 12-year-old comment about grabbing a certain place, also fault Pence for his way of showing respect for his wife.  (I would add that Pence's policy of avoiding the appearance of wrongdoing can also be regarded as an act of respecting women in general.)

This little kerfluffle reminds me of an episode in which a man dining alone with a woman who's not his wife was regarded as a rather serious faux pas.  In 1989, President George Bush the Elder nominated a former Senator named John Tower (R-TX) to be his Secretary of Defense.  The nomination was rejected by the Senate, in part due to allegations of drinking and womanizing by the nominee.  Back then, it seems, socializing with women you're married to was seen as a negative.  An article entitled "John Tower's Rocky Road", appearing in the Los Angeles Times, contains this paragraph:
Jan. 31--Conservative activist Paul Weyrich testifies that on a number of occasions he has seen Tower drunk and socializing with women who were not his wife. He questions whether Tower has the "moral character" for a high Cabinet post.
The Chicago Tribune provides some context to the rejection of former Senator Tower.  There had been some scandals in the then-recent past, causing some Senators to be believe that having a man of flawed character at the top of the Defense Department could lead to even more troubles for the federal government.

But even so, the contrast in attitudes toward Mr. Pence's fidelity and Mr. Tower's infidelity (such as it was), although separated by quite a few years, does look at least somewhat like "damned if you do, damned if you don't".  I acknowledge, of course, that times and attitudes change.  But it seems that some changes in attitudes seem all too convenient, depending on who's occupying which office.  Would Bill Clinton, for example, whose personal improprieties were far worse than dining with women not named Hillary, have suffered any political damage from something like Trump's above-mentioned comment?  And yes, I've noted that Tower's accuser Paul Weyrich was politically on the right, so I can't pin whatever hypocrisy is going on solely on the left.  (I regard calling a politician a hypocrite as being redundant, no matter where he or she sits on the ideological spectrum.)  But it seems pretty clear that one's political opponents are often willing to find whatever fault they can, with or without a standard of consistency.

This has been my two cents, or in this case, my twopence, which is pronounced "tuppence".

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