So, are we saying Pence was RIGHT?

The State had an interesting piece in the paper Sunday about sexual harassment in the S.C. Statehouse.

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

The incident was one of many that went unreported in a S.C. State House dotted with instances of sexism. There, for three days a week, lawmakers — most of them men — leave their families behind in their home towns, and are feted in Columbia by lobbyists and special interest groups in an often alcohol-infused atmosphere….

So, as I read that, it seems to suggest that these things wouldn’t happen if lawmakers had their wives with them when they attend these events where alcohol is served.

In other words, I read that as saying, “Yeah, Mike Pence kind of has a point…

Of course, I kind of thought that already…

Pence was accompanied by his wife when cleaning the Vietnam Memorial over the weekend.

Pence was accompanied by his wife when cleaning the Vietnam Memorial over the weekend.

66 thoughts on “So, are we saying Pence was RIGHT?

  1. Doug Ross

    So it’s beyond their control? They are dragged against their wills to these lobbyist events? Because we know they only go to speak about public policy issues that are important to all of the citizens of South Carolina.

    And there’s a simple solution. Only allow lobbyist contact through emails on public servers and during normal business hours on premise at the State House. And no drinks, no tickets to ball games, no dinners, no “gifts”. ZERO.

    These old horn dogs know exactly what they are doing. Power corrupts in all sorts of ways.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I keep hearing there’s an extra comma in there or something that completely changes the meaning and basically means only 1776 era printing presses are protected. 🙂

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, while the punctuation is a bit eccentric, the First is pretty clear — unlike the Second.

            In any case, I wasn’t talking about the press part. I was think more about the right to petition the government, and to a lesser extent the right to assemble. I would add free speech in there, but I don’t want to give the impression I think spending is speech, because I don’t…

            And yeah, I know you were joking around…

            1. Richard

              I wonder what the original printer of the Constitution did with the original plate? Melt it down for reuse?

        2. Claus2

          That’s for lawyers to figure out. When you join sleazy lobbiests with unethical politicians, do you expect good results to come?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            What about honest lobbyists and ethical politicians?

            But you probably think those don’t exist. Me, I know plenty of both. My representatives are honest fellows. And I would put our own Lynn Teague in the category of honest lobbyists, but I’m not sure she’s technically a lobbyist. Are you, Lynn?

            1. Claus2

              “What about honest lobbyists and ethical politicians?”

              If they’ve been on the job for more than 6 months there’s no such thing.

    1. Mark Stewart

      It’s not hard to avoid the sleaze-balls. You just say no; they want to find easy marks and move on quickly.

      All they are banking on is that there are lawmakers who want to be corrupted, and that they will show themselves with little effort. It’s a pretty simple process.

    2. Karen Pearson

      I like your idea about lobbyists. They may call that sort of thing entertaining. I call it bribing. Obviously, all too many politicians are for sale.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m kind of ambivalent on this.

        I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that there are receptions at which lawmakers can mix and talk outside of the Statehouse. They might get more done that way. Maybe. As long as they’re here in Columbia, it seems like a better use of their time than sitting in a hotel room watching TV.

        Of course, maybe we shouldn’t let them talk to each other except in public meetings. But I’m not convinced that’s the way to go.

        And if they’re going to have these social occasions, I don’t think many people would want their tax money going to such socializing.

        If I remember correctly, they’re all being treated the same. It’s not like, “If you vote my way you get to come to my party.” The ethics law passed after Lost Trust forbids lobbyists to buy individual legislators even so much as a cup of coffee. But they can invite, say, the whole Legislature to a reception.

        I forget whether you have to invite the whole Legislature, or whole Senate or House, or if it’s OK to invite a caucus.

        Anyway, everything is not as it should be, but there ARE some rules. Which means, there are things to negotiate around…

        1. Doug Ross

          There are two categories of lobbyists – those who advocate for causes (Sierra Club, AARP, NRA) and those who advocate for companies / entities in order to artificially protect their markets or gain access to billions of dollars of government spending (defense contractors, Big Pharma, trial lawyers associations). I don’t have any issue with the first group. The latter group, however, is where the corruption begins. For them, lobbying is an investment with possible high economic returns. They spend the money to make even more money. This is why lobbyists for real estate companies are pressuring Republicans to keep the full mortgage interest deduction in any tax bill — they want to protect their economic interests. They can target a few Congressmen and get a huge ROI.

          1. Bart

            I don’t care for lobbyists but if the lobbyists for the real estate companies can successfully keep the full mortgage interest deduction in place, that I do support. But, that is something a lobbyist should never have to advocate for, it has been in place for a long time and most who own a home and are paying a mortgage like the deduction and prefer it remains in place. Other interest payments have been removed from the IRS allowable deductions and this one is the last refuge for the average person living on Main Street America. We cannot afford a legion of tax experts to comb the IRS codes to find every deduction possible.

            1. Doug Ross

              I believe the limit was going to be set for mortgages above 1 million so I wouldn’t think that impacts the average person on Main Street — unless it’s Main Street Beverly Hills.

              I’d prefer to eliminate all of the deductions and drop the rates. There’s something that has never felt right about being able to deduct donations to charity and church. It’s a “feel good” deduction that shouldn’t be necessary.

              I’d also favor removing the Social Security maximum but dropping the rates a point. Puts more money into the pockets of people making under $120K and would likely provide stability to the system going forward. But it should also be tied to increasing the retirement age a year or two since people are living longer — and will likely live longer in the future with advancements in healthcare.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Except do you mention cutting the rates as well? You also have to give something back to those who will be paying in more due to the cap being eliminated in terms of higher monthly payout with some reasonable cap. Can’t just take 5% more of everything over $120K… if not, you are just taking money away from people who earned it.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “You also have to give something back to those who will be paying in more due to the cap being eliminated in terms of higher monthly payout with some reasonable cap.” Why? I’m not arguing with you; I’m just asking why we “have to” do that.

                    Oh, and taxation IS taking money from people who’ve “earned” it, however high or low their income may be. The lower-income people who are taxed on ALL their income earned theirs, too. So what’s changing if everybody does that?

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      What I mean is, why is it necessary to lower the rate if you remove the cap, but NOT necessary to give the same relief to the people who are paying on 100 percent of their income NOW?

              1. Bart

                “I believe the limit was going to be set for mortgages above 1 million so I wouldn’t think that impacts the average person on Main Street — unless it’s Main Street Beverly Hills.”

                You are right, my mistake.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Here’s the thing a lot of people don’t understand about lobbyists: Without lobbyists, there’d be nobody to ‘splain to members of Congress the importance of the mortgage interest deduction, its economic impact, etc.

              A member of Congress doesn’t just understand something like that. They need someone to tell them. And the people who are in a position to tell them are the people who are paid to have and communicate that information.

              That is both the good thing and the bad thing about lobbyists. They’re a critical information source for lawmakers, and they’re also paid to represent a certain side of the equation.

              On the state level, the closest thing to an independent information source lawmakers have is the press. And the press, on the state level, lacks the manpower to do all that digging and ‘splainin’ any more. I mean, individual journalists here and there do. Cindi Scoppe does. But as good as she is, she’s just one person doing the work of 9 — which means a huge amount of her time is taken up by grunt work necessary to getting the paper out, as opposed to high-level reportage.

              Which leads to lawmakers relying even more on lobbyists.

              Back around the time of Lost Trust, another time when lobbyists were being blamed for all the evil in the world, one of them was quoted as defending her role by saying, “I’m an information tool.”

              We joked about that for years. Which I suppose made us kind of like Beavis and Butthead: “Huh-huh-huh. She said, ‘I’m a tool.’…”

              1. Doug Ross

                You live in a fantasy world. There is no way lobbyists are there to educate Congress. They are there to protect their financial interests. And what, pray tell, do all the government employees who work for the Congressmen and associated departments DO?

                I’m a little bit scared to think you think a Congressman isn’t capable of understanding things like this.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Perhaps you just haven’t met many members of Congress.

                  In any event, I live in the REAL world, not the fantasy world where everything is black and white (and everything that has to do with our system of government is black).

                  What I said takes what YOU are saying into account, then added information that apparently has not been available to you.

                  I wrote that the role of lobbyists is both functional and problematic. And that’s the truth. In the REAL world, not a fantasy one….

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Oh, but let me make this distinction on what I said…

                    Members of Congress aren’t nearly as hopeless, when it comes to sources of info, as state legislators are. They have significant staffs to do research. There are researchers working for the Legislature, just not nearly as many…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      You want to know what bothers me most about the process? If you talk to a lawmaker about a complex piece of legislation, you’ll hear him speak of the process as though lawmakers play little active role. He’ll talk about how the lobbyists on THIS side agreed to X and Y, and then the lobbyists on the other side wanted THIS in, and that messed with the whole deal, etc., etc. Although he won’t always say “lobbyists;” he’ll say “the industry” and “the activists” or whatever.

                      I don’t like that. I don’t like when the main participants in the conversation are non-elected officials who have a particular interest in the legislation. But I also know that lawmakers are far from omniscient, and they need this input from people who know more about the issues than they do, even though their role is the opposite of disinterested.

                      At it’s best, the role of the lobbyist is to give a lawmaker a heads-up on the unintended negative consequences of a certain legislative action. And they do that all the time. But of course, that’s ripe for abuse by people whose first loyalty is to their principals. And lawmakers know that, so they always have to take the advice with a mountain of salt…

                2. Doug Ross

                  How much education is going on after work over drinks?

                  And if there IS any education going on, then surely the lobbyists would be fine with videotaping the meetings to allow the information to be shared with all the members, right? That would help everyone out.

              2. Richard

                “and everything that has to do with our system of government is black)”

                Don’t forget red, there’s a lot more red than black these days.

  2. Norm Ivey

    I’m sympathetic to Pence’s position, though as a lawmaker, it seems that the job might require that he meet with female legislators one-on-one. For myself, working in a field dominated by women, I’ve always been careful to make sure that extra-curricular activities are never just me and a female teacher. If there’s not going to be others present, I don’t attend.

    And rather than outlaw lobbyists and deal with right to petition concerns, maybe outlaw alcohol while being lobbied.

  3. Bart

    Pence made a decision and I respect him for sticking to his commitment. If more of our politicians would remember why they are in Washington or in any state capitol or city hall, maybe the influence of lobbyists would be negated. But, human nature being what it is, once power is achieved, unfortunately it feeds their ego to the point where they believe they are “10 feet tall and bullet proof”.

    One local politician was rewarded with a position as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry because he agreed to not run against a minority politician in a district redrawn specifically to placate both sides and provide the means for a minority to be elected to the House. What does that say about the power of a successful lobbying firm and the influence they can bring to the table?

    FWIW, another female has come forward about Moore and her claims are a lot more serious than the others. Apparently Moore tried to force himself on the 16 year old in a parking lot behind the restaurant where she worked. Then when she rebuffed his attempts, he kicked her out of the car and then threatened her by telling her no one would believe her over a powerful politician. Unfortunately, he was right if the accusation is true. At this point, no reason to not believe her.

    1. Doug Ross

      And George Bush is now up to six women whom he has grabbed by the butt during photo shoots. Latest one was 16 and it was in 2003 so I’m not buying the “he’s just an old man having fun” bull.

      They let Strom Thurmond get away with all sorts of inappropriate behavior because of his age.

      1. Richard

        A few more weeks and he may be up there in Joe Biden numbers. Speaking of Uncle Joe, I hear he’s considering running in 2020 under the Biden-Clinton ticket. We just don’t know if it’s Hillary or Chelsea.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, “they” let Strom get away with a lot BEFORE he was old

        Washington writer Sally Quinn told of a 1950s reception where: “My mother and I headed for the buffet table. As we were reaching for the shrimp, both of us jumped and let out a shriek. Senator Strom Thurmond, grinning from ear to ear, had one hand on my behind and the other on my mother’s. As I recall, we were both quite flattered, and thought it terribly funny and wicked of Ol’ Strom.”…

            1. Doug Ross

              How about people at The State? Were they aware of what was generally known about Strom’s behavior? Did you on the editorial board ever endorse Strom? And please, please don’t tell me you HAD to endorse someone.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Well surely you mentioned the concerns about his groping of women when you endorsed him, right? You know, “We acknowledge that Senator Thurmond has a long history of groping, fondling, leering at, goosing, and drooling on young women. But on the plus side, Strom has been in office for 50+ years and his handlers pretty much run the office for him and make sure to wake him when he needs to cast a vote or sit in a committee chair. He’s got a nice room over at Walter Reed Hospital and can be on the job whenever an ambulance is available. So he’s got that going for him. We heartily endorse him!”

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Actually, the only time we endorsed him on my watch, the following were true:

                    — He was way past groping age. No, wait — “groping” is the wrong word with Strom. He’s not the kind of guy who was satisfied merely to grope. Anyway, he was no longer a threat to womanhood. In fact, I wasn’t around in those days; I just heard the stories.

                    — He had a very weak opponent. The Democrats put up a guy who, near as I can recall, had never held public office before. And you know what a disqualifier that is for us.

                    — Still, we considered going for the Democrat, or not endorsing (which would have been a radical move for us, for reasons you’ll never agree with), for one reason: He declined our invitation to come in for a board interview.

                    — So I personally flew up to Washington for a couple of purposes, but mainly (if I recall correctly), to go see Thurmond and interview him and determine whether he was non compos mentis. I visited him in his office and talked with him for a fairly long time, and he seemed to be on top of everything we talked about. I was surprised not to find any indications of senility or dotage or whatever you might call it. I mean, he was Strom, and quirky, and I came back with a funny story or two to tell, but he wasn’t out of it.

                    — He also seemed in good shape physically. Of course, he was famous for his routine at the Senate gym. But I saw him and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (a guy I had great respect for, and had never suspected of being past it) at a White House event during that trip, and both of them were descending those few steps under the portico to their cars — and Moynihan had a lot more trouble with the steps than Strom did.

                    With Strom, the big concern regarding his past was less about the women, and more his being a leading segregationist. But that was even more distant in the past. For far longer than most people ever spend in office, he had been dedicated to serving ALL of his constituents. And politically, he was about in the same place as Reagan and Bush (GHWB), so we had no beef on that score.

                2. Doug Ross

                  What year was this? Post Clarence Thomas hearings ?(which, as a Yankee, was really the first time I was aware of him)… he was in no condition to serve at that point.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    He wasn’t like that sitting across a desk from me.

                    He was a quirky old man, easy to make fun of (especially his anachronistic accent), but he wasn’t out of it. He was on top of the issues we talked about.

                    My fun story from that visit actually, come to think of it, kind of bears on his eye for young woman, although in a fairly innocuous way.

                    When I arrived at his office, there was a free feed down the hall courtesy of some group like the Pork Producers or something (great metaphor there). Strom was well known for NEVER passing up free food — in fact, notorious for stuffing it into his pockets for later. When I arrived, he told me to wait a minute while he ushered these three young pages, two girls and a boy, down the hall, loudly proclaiming, “HOT dawgs! Y’all lahk HOT dawgs? Wait heah whal I get dese guhls some HOT dogs…” No mention of the boy, but he tagged along.

                    It’s funnier when you can hear me do the voice….

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Oh, to answer your question more directly. It was 1998, at the height of the Lewinsky scandal. I sat in on a press briefing at the White House on that trip, and it was all about that…

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        “They let Strom Thurmond get away with all sorts of inappropriate behavior because of his age.”

        You know, I’ve always thought the difference between Doug and me was that he is a libertarian and I’m a communitarian. But it occurs to me I may be wrong. It could be that I have certain Tory — perhaps High Tory or even Jacobite — tendencies, while he is quite whiggish. I say that because I ran across this definition of “whiggish” recently: “of, relating to, or characterized by a view which holds that history follows a path of inevitable progression and improvement and which judges the past in light of the present.”

        Don’t get me wrong. I strongly disapprove of Strom’s behavior. But Sally Quinn’s reaction foxes me. Could it really be that her reaction was defensible in light of the times.

        No. No, I don’t think so. This is a case of wrong being wrong. Never mind what I said about a difference between Doug and me. I, too, am inclined to judge Strom by values I hold today. But… I think they are also timeless values. Gentlemen did not behave that way in the 1950s, perhaps even less so than today.

        I’m harrumphing here, in case you can’t hear it…

  4. Harry Harris

    The same ethics law that applies to state employees should apply to legislators and lobbyists. Nothing of value may be either offered or accepted in an effort to influence a state employee … Nothing. Not a drink, food, ticket to anything. Let them buy their own stuff or simply refuse to go. If a lobbyist offers, they may turn them in – or any witnesses may.

  5. Chuckie

    Ok, since you’re back on the issue of women and what to do about them, we’re still waiting on your Solomonic take on the question of abortion that you haven’t addressed from a recent discussion:

    “We don’t grant a single individual absolute power of life and death over another.” — Brad

    What I’d like to know is this: If you want the decision about abortion taken out of the hands of the individual and turned over to an independent, supposedly “objective” body, let’s call it the Abortion Adjudication Board, to make judgments on a case-by-case basis, it’s important that you define the criteria you think should be applied by such a board in deciding which women should be allowed to get an abortion and which not. Along with the moral principle those criteria should be based on.

    I’ll be interested in your solution.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Tell you what — I’ll take the time to draw up those regs as soon as there’s a realistic chance of such a board existing.

      As long as abortion is an absolute right, with no appeal, there’s zero chance of that.

      1. Doug Ross

        It can start with victims of rape, incest as well as when the mother’s life is determined to be in danger, right? If that’s even up for debate then you aren’t serious about an objective process.

        Can it include Plan B options?

      2. Chuckie

        1) There is no ”absolute right“ to an abortion.

        2) You’re the one who raised the idea of separating the woman from the decision. I simply asked that you follow through on that and tell us how the decision to allow or disallow an abortion should be made. You want to see an appeal? Ok, then how would that operate in practice? You should actually work through the practical consequences of your position rather than simply drawing general moral judgments about other people.

        1. bud

          Chuckie I don’t know how long you’ve read Brad’s blog but he’s pretty consistent in deflecting basic questions on abortion. In general I’m pretty uncomfortable with this issue as is apparently Brad (even though he somehow manages to keep bringing it up). I’d settle for a concrete answer to just how an abortion is to be punished. Unless you actually give serious penalties to the mothers who abort then you are really just pro-choice blathering a bunch of nonsensical rhetoric.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yep, it’s an uncomfortable topic. Which is why, as I said, I wish Douthat had found a different issue to illustrate his point. It’s the point that I wished to discuss.

            A line in George Will’s latest column suggests national Dems have wised up a bit:

            National Democrats are helping Jones, but delicately. They rashly treated a Georgia special congressional election as a referendum on the president and want to avoid that mistake in a state Trump carried by 28 points….

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m always torn about abortion discussion on the blog.

              I went 15 years on the editorial board without having a discussion of abortion, because I saw it as a destructive topic that we couldn’t do anything about, and would just tear us apart to no purpose — making it harder to reach consensus on other, more promising issues.

              But I’ve been really ambivalent about it on the blog: On the one hand, I see a blog as more of a place for an individual to let it hang out and be completely frank about issues — less need to be diplomatic and think about the good of the team. On the other hand, I don’t want to have the blog be a place where people just yell at each other. I want it to be a place where people can listen to people who disagree with them, and maybe have a meeting of the minds now and then. And divisive issues get in the way of that here, too.

              So I don’t know. I’ve debated it with myself a good deal, and neither side of me has won…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                It’s sort of a debate between optimism and pessimism.

                The optimistic side says if we really lay it all out honestly, maybe people could have a meeting of the minds here — assuming I can keep this a civil forum — even on subjects that are hopeless elsewhere.

                The pessimistic side says No, it’s hopeless here, too. Better stick to topics with more potential for civil discussion…

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  “Better stick to topics with more potential for civil discussion…”

                  Potential topics:

                  Superman or Batman, better superhero?
                  Bottled water or tap water?
                  Is cereal and milk together a soup?
                  Is a hotdog a sandwich?
                  Best french fries?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Superman. A complete, unconflicted hero with no dark side.
                    Depends on what country I’m in.
                    No. Of course, to me, milk is a poison. But in Thailand, I had pork and rice soup for breakfast most mornings. Soup for breakfast is a thing there.
                    No. Especially since I don’t eat buns.
                    Either Corky’s seasoned, curled fries in Memphis, or this place in Wichita (I forget the name of it) that cooked them in peanut oil and served them in a big, greasy paper bag…

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      Leaving aside your incorrect answer on Superman, how can you argue that a hot dog isn’t a sandwich? It’s mean wrapped in bread. Please set forth your argument, counselor.

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      As I said, when I eat them they are not. A hot dog is a sausage.

                      Speaking of which, if you order sausage for breakfast in Thailand, you get something that is essentially a hot dog. Weird.

                      Actually, that just happened one place. It was a resort that apparently catered to a lot of Brits, so they had Full English Breakfast on the menu. Having enjoyed that in England (minus the egg and toast), I ordered it. Disappointing. Those were definitely not Cumberland sausages. It was like they’d READ about the English breakfast somewhere, but had never actually SEEN one.

                      I preferred the places that were more authentically Thai, where I ordered the pork-and-rice soup, fresh fruit and coffee…

                2. Doug Ross

                  Tap (except in Detroit)
                  No way cereal is soup
                  Yes hotdog is a sandwich
                  Five Guys, Nathans, or Rush’s — Nathans if I pick one

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Okay, you got two of these wrong.

                    Batman is a way better superhero than Superman. Batman does everything with cunning and has no innate powers. Superman on the other hand is just an alien who happens to have special powers. Batman is the people’s superhero.

                    Tap water is the correct answer, unless you’re in Detroit (or most Central American countries)

                    Cereal and milk is not a soup, it’s two different things put together.

                    Yes, a hotdog is a sandwich.

                    Five Guys gives you a lot of fries, but Rush’s definitely has the best ones. Never had Nathan’s. Is that as in Nathan’s famous hot dogs?

                3. Doug Ross

                  Yes to Nathans. I usually can only get them at the ATL airport when I am jetsetting around the country. I have my butler feed them to me.

  6. David L Carlton

    Brad, for a guy who’s married to a woman and has every reason to be proud of his own independent, idealistic daughters, you’re awfully clueless about what it’s like to be a woman in the professional world. Dan Drezner had a good piece last week in the WaPo about that–how it’s hard to be a professional woman traveling to meetings, conferences, etc. and *not* be either eating with some guy whose wife is at home or steering clear of guys and hurting one’s career. The problem isn’t that guys sometimes have dinner with women they’re not married to (I did that just last week at a conference–but with a colleague, and in any case I’m not married), but that they’re incapable of maintaining professional boundaries. As a professor I’ve always been aware of the need to maintain boundaries, whether with students or colleagues–and if I wasn’t there’d be hell to pay from the administration. The “Pence Rule”–actually the “Billy Graham Rule”–isn’t about avoiding the temptation to be a predator, but about appearances. If we didn’t have a presumption that all men are potential predators, we wouldn’t need the Pence rule. We need to get rid of the presumption–and that’s the responsibility of us guys.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, yeah. Of course it’s all on us. And the Pence rule — which seems kind of overboard to me — is one way of keeping yourself in line.

      As for my being “awfully clueless about what it’s like to be a woman in the professional world,” I’ve been told that. I’m also pretty clueless about what it’s like to be a woman, period.

      Speaking of my independent daughters — my youngest is headed back to Dominica. She’s one of the only five who are returning of the 17 Peace Corps people who evacuated. This time, she’s preparing to live there without electricity, since the restoration of that is not in sight. The house in which she had an apartment is still standing, though, and another young woman will be rooming with her — there aren’t that many places currently habitable…

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