The ‘Billy Graham rule’ doesn’t honor your wife. It demeans her — and all women.

It’s charitable to first assume our fellow humans are acting in good faith, so let’s first assume that Robert Foster genuinely believes he is the hero of this story. Let’s assume that when the Mississippi gubernatorial candidate denied a female journalist access to his campaign because she is female, he truly saw himself as a bulwark against moral decay. This doesn’t make him right, of course, but it does give context to the problem — albeit a context that should terrify us all.

Larrison Campbell, a female reporter with Mississippi Today, revealed this week that she had asked to shadow Foster for a day on the campaign trail. Two of her colleagues were already following other contenders, but Foster turned down Campbell’s request — unless, that is, she brought along a male colleague. The reason? He obeys the “Billy Graham rule,” refusing to be alone with any woman other than his wife, or, as he put it, “avoid any decision that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage.”

Criticism followed, and Foster bristled at it: “The liberal left . . . can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith,” he tweeted.

But unfortunately, there’s not a single inch of moral high ground achieved via the Billy Graham rule, which purports to honor marriage vows. In similar fashion, Vice President Pence once said he would not dine alone with a woman to whom he wasn’t married. But rules like these don’t honor your wife. They just presume that your marriage vows are so flimsy that you can’t be trusted to uphold them unless a babysitter monitors you. It’s rather like a thief sanctimoniously announcing that he brings a parole officer every time he goes to the bank to make sure he doesn’t rob it. Good for you, dude, for knowing your own limitations — but it doesn’t make you better than the rest of us, who manage to regularly not steal things even when we’re completely alone.

Or, as writer Jeremy White offered: “[The rule] presumes either:

A) you can’t be trusted or

B) women can’t be trusted.

Everyone invoking that rule should be prepared to answer which is true.”

At other points, Foster’s camp seemed to imply that the issue wasn’t about his marriage vows but about optics. “We’re really concerned about bad publicity,” Campbell said Foster’s campaign director told her. The director mentioned the possibility of a rival campaign taking photographs of the pair together, which would put Foster in a “compromising position.”

There’s so much wrong with this logic that it’s difficult to know where to start.

It implies that a man and woman together are necessarily engaging in compromising activities. Even if they are in public. Even if one of them, like Campbell, is gay. Even if one of them is a candidate on the campaign trail and the other is holding a notebook and wearing a press badge, and they’re making the rounds of public events and rubber chicken dinners. (Truly, if this is what Foster considers being caught in flagrante, I feel deeply sad about his sex life.) It implies that Campbell is a love interest before she’s a journalist, even when she’s specifically there as a journalist.

This logic further implies that Foster’s silly, specious perception of a “compromised position” is more important than the actual compromised position that his policy creates for Campbell. She has been assigned a job that she is now unable to do. Her news outlet must decide whether to short its readers on coverage of a gubernatorial candidate on a matter of principle or capitulate to the candidate’s insulting demands. (They rightly chose the former and skipped the assignment).

The most harmful aspect of the Graham/Pence rule is this: It keeps women out of the room. It says that men can forward their careers via mentoring sessions, golf games and brainstorming lunches, but women cannot.

Are we to gather that, because of this rule, Foster would also never employ a female chief of staff, attorney or accountant and never visit a female doctor, dentist or physical therapist, since all of those roles would necessitate occasional alone time?

These might be acceptable, if dispiriting, choices for a private citizen to make in his own life, but a governor making them has cascading effects for hundreds of thousands of people within his bureaucracy. The Graham/Pence rule prevents women from climbing to the top of their careers because the men who have the power to help them get there won’t even let them in the room.

To add insult to injury, the men barring the door get to use their faith as the deadbolt. Their discrimination is wrapped in piety; their disdain for women is disguised as honor for wives. Rather than figuring out how to do something truly moral, like create a world in which all genders are equally able to succeed, they create a delusion where women must be protected into oblivion.

Can you imagine if Foster’s faith-based rationale was rooted in any faith but Christianity? Can you imagine if a Muslim male candidate refused to be shadowed by a female reporter? What then do you suppose would be the reaction of far-right conservative evangelicals?

Can you imagine what a positive impact Foster could have had if he’d chosen a different route — highlighting his respect for women in professional roles, for example, or building enough trust in his marriage that it didn’t need to be governed by arbitrary rules? If he was uncomfortable with Campbell coming along alone,

  • he could have provided his own campaign staffer, rather than asking her to bring a colleague.
  • He could have brought his wife.
  • He could have live-streamed the trip for video evidence of its propriety. He had options.

But late Wednesday night, Foster was still defending his position, presenting himself as the wronged party. “My wife and the State of Mississippi deserve a governor who doesn’t compromise their beliefs,” he wrote. And then, a vaguer tweet that also seemed to allude to the incident: “I will not be intimidated into a corner of silence by a group of radical Socialists and Communists whose goal in life is to dismantle America.”

Dismantle America. Two professional, clothed, adults riding together in a car, in the process of doing their respective jobs, is dismantling America.

The only upside of Foster continuing to dig this hole was that, by the end of the day, it was difficult to imagine any woman wanting to spend 15 hours in a car with him. Not alone, not with a chaperone, not for work, not for fun. He can’t be in a car with a woman doing her job? Fine. Leave him in the dust, by the side of the road.

What the Times got wrong about kids and phones

strict approaches aimed only at limiting screen time aren’t the most effective. You have to be a role model and engage alongside your kids, a notion that the Times stories largely skirted.

.. But when parents take the time to appreciate and connect with their kids’ digital interests, it can be a site of connection and shared joy”—and a way to mentor kids to discover their own creativity.

 

How Mnuchin Keeps a Steady Grip in a Tug of War on Trade

Two weeks ago, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, declared that the trade war with China was “on hold” and that the United States would temporarily holster its tariffs. The reassuring comments calmed markets and raised hopes that Mr. Mnuchin, one of President Trump’s most enduring and trusted advisers, was winning the internal trade battle that has gripped the White House.

Then Mr. Trump weighed in. In a one-two punch last week, the president doubled down on the trade war with China and threw in ones with Canada, Mexico and Europe for good measure.

.. The scolding laid bare the uncomfortably familiar spot that Mr. Mnuchin finds himself in: trying to be a voice of moderation and a statesman in an administration that sees diplomatic norms and protocols as signs of weakness.

He has so far managed to stay in Mr. Trump’s good graces while advocating a more free-trade approach, but that balancing act is showing signs of strain.

.. Mr. Mnuchin, unflappable in public, is privately making his case with a president

.. The internal tensions boiled over in May during a trade mission Mr. Mnuchin led to China, when he dressed down Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s hawkish trade adviser, by reminding him where he stood in the administration’s pecking order after Mr. Navarro confronted him about being sidelined from the talks.

.. Current and former White House and Treasury officials say Mr. Mnuchin has managed to thrive by employing a mix of assertiveness and obsequiousness, staking out his position to the president but quickly changing course to carry out Mr. Trump’s marching orders, even if his message did not win the day.

.. Mr. Trump tweeted that he was going to find a way to help put back in business a Chinese telecommunications company that had been punished for violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The decision blindsided administration officials and lawmakers

.. Mr. Mnuchin, along with the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, was dispatched to Capitol Hill to try to calm angry Republican lawmakers and explain the rationale behind allowing the company, ZTE, to remain in business.

.. those close to the secretary say he has learned to appreciate Mr. Trump’s use of the threat of tariffs as a negotiating tool.

.. focused on the president’s desire to see the bilateral trade deficit reduced, rather than emphasizing some of the other trade barriers

.. Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former top strategist, has said that Mr. Mnuchin is in over his head in the negotiations and that he is letting Mr. Trump’s leverage slip away by failing to force China to make major changes to its industrial policy.

.. it was apparent that the Chinese government was trying to elevate Mr. Mnuchin’s role in the negotiations because they see him as the American official most likely to cut a deal.

.. “Among the possible choices, they see Mnuchin as being less hawkish than some of the other counterparts,”

.. populist voices outside the administration have already been heckling Mr. Mnuchin as inept amid reports that the United States was on the verge of making an agreement with China that was viewed as merely symbolic.

.. Mr. Mnuchin has at times found himself the subject of derision, characterized as a fawning banker who cannot tell the president “no.”

.. Last year, the Treasury secretary was scoffed at by economic policymakers from across the political spectrum for insisting that the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cuts would pay for themselves.

.. Mr. Mnuchin told members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to “vote for the debt ceiling for me.” His plea was met with groans and hisses.

.. Last August, fellow alumni of Yale, where Mr. Mnuchin earned a bachelor’s degree, called on the secretary to resign when he defended Mr. Trump’s handling of racially inspired violence in Charlottesville, Va. A month later, Lawrence Summers, a Clinton administration Treasury secretary, called Mr. Mnuchin the “greatest sycophant in cabinet history” for supporting Mr. Trump’s criticism of football players who knelt during the national anthem.

.. points to his role in successfully steering the Republican tax cut package, which many said would never pass, through Congress.

.. Within the Treasury Department, Mr. Mnuchin has developed a reputation as a micromanager. He resisted choosing a full-time deputy for more than a year, preferring to oversee everything from carrying out the new tax law to overseeing financial sanctions.

.. When the Internal Revenue Service systems failed on Tax Day, the response to the crash was slowed because Mr. Mnuchin was in New Hampshire

.. He had required that any big decisions be cleared by him

.. Mr. Mnuchin’s closest aides describe him as a collegial and mentoring figure.

.. Despite his earnest persona on television, he is known to possess a wry sense of humor

 

‘He Brutalized For You’

How Joseph McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn became Donald Trump’s mentor.

Roy Cohn, the lurking legal hit man for red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy, whose reign of televised intimidation in the 1950s has become synonymous with demagoguery, fear-mongering and character assassination. In the formative years of Donald Trump’s career, when he went from a rich kid working for his real estate-developing father to a top-line dealmaker in his own right, Cohn was one of the most powerful influences and helpful contacts in Trump’s life.

.. He wrote the cold-hearted prenuptial agreement before the first of his three marriages and filed the headline-generating antitrust suit against the National Football League. To all of these deals, Cohn brought his political connections, his public posturing and a simple credo: Always attack, never apologize.

.. He wrote the cold-hearted prenuptial agreement before the first of his three marriages and filed the headline-generating antitrust suit against the National Football League. To all of these deals, Cohn brought his political connections, his public posturing and a simple credo: Always attack, never apologize.

.. “He considered Cohn a mentor,” Mike Gentile, the lead prosecutor who got Cohn disbarred for fraud and deceit not long before he died, said in a recent interview.

.. A year later, pressed by a reporter from New York magazine to justify his association with Cohn, he was characteristically blunt: “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me.”

He elaborated in an interview in 2005. “Roy was brutal, but he was a very loyal guy,” Trump told author Tim O’Brien. “He brutalized for you.”

.. He was a tangle of contradictions, a Jewish anti-Semite and a homosexual homophobe, vehemently closeted but insatiably promiscuous.

..