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Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 1999 /27 Tishrei, 5760

Fred Barnes

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Econophone

The Harassment
of Gary Bauer


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IN 1993, THE WASHINGTON POST DISMISSED Christian conservatives involved in national politics as "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." Offered as simple fact rather than someone's opinion, the characterization was not only a slur. It was incorrect. And the Post ultimately apologized for its mistake. Now, there's another false idea that the media, including the Post again, seemingly want to impose on evangelical Christians engaged in politics–or at least on Gary Bauer, the Republican presidential candidate who used to run the Family Research Council. The idea: that Bauer, as a serious Christian, should refrain from ever meeting alone with a woman, even a top campaign staffer, who's not his wife.

This absurd standard grew out of staff turmoil at the Bauer campaign and a subsequent rumor that Bauer was having an affair with a young woman on his staff. Last week, Bauer, with his wife Carol and three children at his side, flatly denied the rumor. He said it was "trash can politics at its worst. . . . I have not violated my vows." And no one stepped forward to charge that he had.

Instead, a new accusation surfaced. Charles Jarvis, Bauer's former campaign chairman who now backs Steve Forbes for the GOP nomination, said Bauer had met alone in his office with the woman and traveled with her on several occasions. That, Jarvis said, gave "the appearance of impropriety" and violated the rules supposedly governing Christian conservative men. The press, notably the Washington Post, took this fresh charge with utmost seriousness. "Christian politicians and evangelical leaders commonly follow an unspoken rule not to meet behind doors with female staff members or travel alone with them," the Post said.

No, they don't. Billy Graham follows that rule, and so do some ordained ministers, and it may well be appropriate for them. But it's not "commonly" followed by Christian men in secular positions, nor should it be. Think about this for a moment. What if Bauer had turned away a top female staffer who wanted to meet with him privately, telling her a male aide must be in the room? And what if she had quit, gone to the Post, and told of the incident? Bauer would have been pilloried for following a medieval practice that discriminates against women, puts them at a sharp disadvantage, and is breathtakingly unfair.

As it turned out, Bauer was pilloried for violating a standard that hasn't been applied to any other candidate, Christians included. Texas governor George W. Bush has talked often (more often than Bauer, actually) about his deep faith in Jesus as his personal savior. Yet he surely meets privately with his press secretary and adviser Karen Hughes, who's considerably younger. And what about Vice President Albert Gore, who recently told religion writers that his Christian faith "is the center of my life"? Should this preclude him from conferring alone with Elaine Kamarck, his top policy adviser? Of course not.

There's one especially pernicious aspect of the attack on Bauer. Jarvis has repeated his complaint about Bauer meeting alone with a woman (his deputy campaign manager) in numerous TV interviews. Surely Jarvis knows what most people will suspect when they hear him: that Bauer is having a Clinton-like sexual affair. But when asked, Jarvis has said he doesn't believe this to be true, nor do other disgruntled staffers who've left the Bauer campaign.

Bauer
The meetings, after all, occurred at Bauer headquarters, where Bauer's older daughter works. And the travel? They were routine political trips, on commercial airline flights, with the young woman along in a conventional staff role. The truth is, Bauer is a deeply moral man who's never given the slightest hint of being romantically interested in a woman other than his wife.

Gary Bauer has made mistakes in his campaign. He let a staff dispute between Jarvis and campaign manager Frank Cannon fester for months. Jarvis wanted Bauer to de-emphasize the Iowa straw vote in August. Cannon advised a full-scale effort. Bauer sided with Cannon, finished fourth (beating Patrick Buchanan), and was regarded as having helped his cause by playing in Iowa. Jarvis soon left the Bauer campaign. Perhaps Bauer should not have called a press conference to deny a rumor that most people outside the political community hadn't heard. Bauer and his strategists reasoned that the rumor had created doubts and disappointment among his core supporters, many of them evangelical Christians, and had to be quashed. In that, Bauer succeeded, only to be tagged with a new charge that ought to be dismissed out of hand.

It gets worse. Jarvis defended his defection from Bauer to Forbes by telling Gail Collins of the New York Times, "What's wonderful about Steve Forbes is that he will never be alone with a woman. Never." Does Forbes-magazine publisher, businessman, devoted husband, father of five daughters, presidential candidate-really want to be held to this standard? Please, Steve, say it ain't so.



Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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