On Rob Porter

Image source . Rob Porter is holding the document     Link to the Wikipedia article on Rob Porter

Note: This is not about the well-known economist named Rob Porter but the former White House staffer

The sharp edge of the Rob Porter story came home to me when I realized my personal connection. Other than the victims and those close to the victims, some of those whose hearts are hurt most deeply by someone's misbehavior are the parents of the bad actor. I know Rob Porter's father Roger Porter well. 

My connection comes through the small world of Mormons at the highest levels of academia. Roger Porter was my bishop when I was in the student congregation in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1977-1979 before I served a Mormon mission in Japan. Moreover, in a Mormon congregation, even the bishop and his family has a "home teacher" (see "Inside Mormonism: The Home Teachers Come Over"), and although I was less than 19 years old during this period, I was assigned as the home teacher for Roger Porter and his family. (Since Rob was born in 1977, that means I was the home teacher for Rob Porter during his first two years of life.)

Roger Porter is a truly delightful person. His his wife Ann was also truly delightful. Ann died last year and so was spared the latest reminder of Rob's bad behavior. I don't see any angle whereby Rob could make any progress at blaming his parents for his bad actions. 

Tangentially, as a young White House Fellow, Roger Porter took on a role in the Ford Administration similar to role that Rob took in the Trump administration: being an effective manager of the paper flow. 

Good parents want their children to be good and to do good as well as to be happy. By all accounts, Rob was doing some good within the Trump Administration; but he did bad things in his marriages.

I am moved by the progress that the #MeToo era represents. It is a huge step forward for humanity to the extent that it is now harder for men to get away with treating women badly.

The question I have, though, is what the path for repentance is for men who have treated women badly. One thing I think is a minimum standard for us as a public to treat men in the public sphere as having repented is this: men who have done serious harm to women should come forward and admit their crimes and near-crimes without waiting to be accused by others. If someone proactively says they have acted badly and shows real evidence of having turned over a new leaf, there should be some length of time after which we as a public should treat them more or less the same as those who were never bad in the first place. (In the private sphere, more caution is likely to be appropriate for women.) 

The Mormon Church, in particular, should encourage men who have treated women badly to talk about what they did wrong and their efforts to do better. This sends an important to other men about intolerable behavior. The Mormon Church is an institution that could dramatically improve the record of its men in their treatment of its women by having men who are truly remorseful talk about how they mistreated women and how terrible a thing that is. (Other institutions need this just as much, but have less of the institutional capability to make it happen.)