Last week, the Washington Post published a profile on Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen.

As WaPo reported, Mrs. Pence “never weighs in on or attempts to influence policy” nor does she wish to speak on her husband’s behalf. Though if you’d like to learn more about her work in art therapy, she’ll gladly speak about her passions there.

The WaPo profile paints the Second Lady as a quiet, but solid support to her husband and the job he seems to take quite seriously. So naturally, the political media and beltway elites cranked up their outraged machines and pointed the crosshairs at a reference to a 2002 quote (actual quote was excluded from the WaPo article) in The Hill, which discussed Mike Pence’s “rule” refusing to dine alone with women not his wife. “If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,” Pence told The Hill in 2002.

Can you believe that guy, actively working to protect his marriage in a notoriously licentious profession?

Though he’s never been accused of discrimination, beltway elites of all stripes (some whose opinions I generally genuinely appreciate and admire) were blinded to his devotion to his marriage and family and decided there was simply no scenario where Pence’s decisions wouldn’t preclude a supremely qualified woman from being his Chief of Staff. Again, there’s ZERO evidence Pence or his views have promoted workplace discrimination. Pence’s staff is comprised of women advisors aplenty, but the supposition that refusing to dine with other women is inherently discriminatory seems enough of an argument for some.

Case in point:

The Atlantic dug in further and learned Pence routinely turned down cocktail invites from men just as frequently, but that doesn’t make sexy outrage bait.

The Hill article gives more context on how the Pences were thinking about this, at least back in 2002. Pence told the paper he often refused dinner or cocktail invitations from male colleagues, too: “It’s about building a zone around your marriage,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a predatory town, but I think you can inadvertently send the wrong message by being in [certain] situations.”

The 2002 article notes that Pence arrived in Congress a half decade after the 1994 “Republican revolution,” when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House. Several congressional marriages, including Gingrich’s, encountered difficulty that year. Pence seemed wary of this. “I’ve lost more elections than I’ve won,” he said. “I’ve seen friends lose their families. I’d rather lose an election.” He even said he gets fingers wagged in his face by concerned Indianans. “Little old ladies come and say, ‘Honey, whatever you need to do, keep your family together,’” he told The Hill.

There’s no room for traditional family values in progressive culture where putting a woman’s self-interested career aspirations in front of the sanctity of marriage and family is an acceptable and preferable trade-off. And that’s really the argument here — “Don’t you realize a woman might want to be his Chief of Staff and how can they do that if he won’t drink with them alone?!”

Avoiding alone time with other women isn’t solely religiously rooted as many have argued, it’s simply wisdom. If Pence is never alone with another woman, he can’t be accused of anything improper. Any political consultant worth their salt would advise as much.

Damon Linker, Senior Correspondent at The Week highlighted the obvious double standard of those decrying Pence’s desire to be cautious about female company, likening his decision to academic rules requiring professors to leave their doors open when meeting with students:

“I don’t buy that it’s because of a grand injustice to women. He could meet with a woman at the office with coworkers around. Why isn’t that an acceptable accommodation? Like how when I teach college, I’m told not to shut my office door with a student. Isn’t that the same kind of double standard? Yet there’s no outrage. It’s seen as a prudent measure to protect young women and male profs.”

Also participating in the selfish argument party was the suggestion that the Pences have all kinds of “rules” that prevent the missus from enjoying the freedom modern women ought to enjoy. As is the case with many married couples in circumstances unfavorable to a successful marriage, agreeing to avoid potentially problematic circumstances is no hard and fast “rule” it’s a decision both parties make together for the betterment and preservation of their union.

Critics have piled on Mr. Pence without bothering to ask Mrs. Pence what she thinks or how she feels about their marital decisions. From the Christian vantage point (and the Pences are devout), they sure do seem to have this figured out — he protects their marriage (and her), makes her his ultimate priority, and lifts her up. Meanwhile, she serves as his “his gut check and shield”. Theirs is an unusual, caring and equitable model in a self-centric microcosm.

With the Anthony Weiners, Bill Clintons, Ted Kennedys, with the influx of sexual assault awareness campaigns, and far too many horrific stories of campus sexual assault, the Pences should be lauded for their devotion to one another and to fidelity. Not to mention their dedication to practices that ensure women he interacts with, not just his wife, find themselves in a safe place above reproach.

But such normalcy is intolerable, it seems.

The lesson here is simple: You are free to give women preferential treatment, to ensure their career success, so long as those women are not your wife.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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