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Letter to the Editor: Bill Sniffin Should Write a Book Called “Profiles In Cowardice”


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Dear Editor:

When John F. Kennedy was a senator from Massachusetts and took his candidacy for national office seriously in 1956, he published a book called Profiles in Courage.

The book was a compilation of stories of U.S. senators and a congressman who had put principle before advancement, that is, they had publicly voted for something they knew might to harm or even destroy their careers because they were sure it was the right thing to do. do and it was a matter of national importance.

The central idea of ​​Kennedy’s book was that it took courage and character for an elected official to make an unpopular choice, perhaps a career-ending choice, but in certain circumstances it was the right thing to do. .

America read the book, understood Kennedy to be his role model in power, and generally agreed with his assessment that courage and character were more important than following the crowd.

At the time, no one was saying that the cowardly acceptance of bad politics or that “holding [one’s] nose” and ignoring or supporting sedition, trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, or lying about election results were admirable things to do.

Certainly, no one in Wyoming at that time argued that holding their noses up to sedition and lying on a grand scale was admirable behavior.

Bill Sniffin, who writes a column for Cowboy State Daily, maybe just old enough and literate enough to have read Profiles in Courage and so it is sad that he forgot all that he could have learned in this book or elsewhere about political ethics.

In a recent column of cowboy state DailySniffin argued that Liz Cheney could have been the next Republican Speaker of the House, if only she had sat quietly and “held her nose” when confronted with Trump’s incitement to attack the Capitol and Trump’s repeated lie that he only lost the election because of voter tampering, rigging or other misconduct.

Cheney, of course, knew the truth: Trump lost the election because his habits of lying, boasting, bullying, preening, narcissism and degeneracy alienated the swing voters who gave Trump a chance in 2016. but who weren’t going to give him a chance in 2020 to misbehave inside and outside the White House for another four years.

The fact that many of his constituents were among the blind souls who thought that Trump’s obvious character flaws were not flaws at all, but characteristics, and that his constituents did not recognize that he was a caricature of a human being and a parody of a president, did not stop her from telling the truth because she thought it was a matter of national importance.

She was of course right. An attack on the peaceful transfer of power after a free and fair election in the United States is not acceptable and it needs to be said loudly and publicly, even to those people in Wyoming who do not want to hear this simple truth. It was an attack on the Constitution and an attack on the Republic.

Other Wyoming politicians, of course, played along. Systematically poor Senators Barrasso and Lummis avoided the issue as much as possible so as not to jeopardize their chances in office.

Gradients Chuck Gray, Bob Ide, Harriet Hageman and a host of even dimmer lights in the Wyoming GOP actively took up the battle cry that the election was rigged, or could have been rigged, or in some other way actively advanced the big lie that Trump had not just and squarely lost and the equally important lie that US elections are untrustworthy but routinely subject to corrupt manipulation.

These Wyoming politicians realized they were playing before an audience of resentful, rural, angry, politically and historically illiterate, disgruntled, and in some cases deceived voters and that the “safe” thing to do for their careers in government and for their advancement to power was either to hold their noses and ignore the assault on the Republic, or to actively accompany it.

It’s no shock that Liz Cheney chose a different path. For one thing, she likely hadn’t planned on a career in the House from Wyoming and would have preferred an executive appointment.

Second, she was not tied to the degraded MAGAbilly wing of the Republican Party, but to that wing that had produced intelligent and, in some cases, principled policymakers since Lincoln. And, of course, unlike many of her colleagues, she both recognized the threat to the Republic and cared enough to jeopardize her career.

This is what John F. Kennedy and most of America recognized as political courage and character in the 1950s as an admirable political ethic.

In his column, Bill Sniffin gave his readers inside-out ethics for an age of inside-out politics. Maybe in a time like 2016-20 and in a place like Wyoming, when lying on the level that Trump did it had become normalized, when boasting and bullying were admired and when unrest personality traits were seen as strengths, Sniffin’s observations make sense.

When cowardice is valued, a politician must “hold his nose”. When the Capitol is under attack, the correct response is to hold your nose.

When the integrity of elections is undermined by outright lies, hold your nose. In Sniffin’s upside-down ethics, the Republic takes second place to political advancement. Her ethic of “holding your nose” in the face of a clear threat to the Republic has worked for others, so why not Liz Cheney?

It didn’t work for Liz Cheney because unlike the majority of Wyoming voters and unlike Sniffin himself, her view always honored courage and character. Honoring courage and character is a difficult concept for the majority of Wyoming voters and for some Wyoming editorial writers.

Perhaps Sniffin will soon give us a book on his own political principles as expressed in his recent column and call it Profiles in Cowardice.


Mike Krampner
Krampner is a graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law, who lived in Wyoming and practiced law in Wyoming for 32 years. He also holds a doctorate. in history from the University of Maryland. He currently lives in Jerusalem, Israel, where he continues to follow Wyoming politics.

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