Not only are Paul Ryan and Mike Pence no Jack Kennedy, they are no profiles in courage either. Profiles in Craven is more like it.
John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, was published in 1957, almost 60 years ago. It recounted the stories of seven U.S. senators who stood up for their principles knowing that the cost might be and in some cases was their political career.
The courage to take a public stand when one’s career or livelihood might be forfeit is always rare. When their political future is on the line, few have the courage to stand up and be counted, even doing so serves and protects the deepest principles one claims to venerate.
What’s even worse is those politicians whose careers are NOT on the line and yet who refuse to stand up for the principles they claim to hold anyway.
I excuse the hard core Trump supporters who see everything through the Trump prism. I do not excuse those Republicans who clearly recognize their nominee’s character defects and yet support him anyway.
In today’s Republican Party, any kind of courage is in very short supply. Until the last 24 hours, the Republicans who have spoken out against Trump this election cycle mainly are retired or are not up for reelection this year. The current officeholders may have calculated, with some justification, that Trumpism will have come and gone by the time they face the electorate again and thus they are safe to speak out in opposition.
Nevertheless, such officeholders deserve credit for standing up for their own principles and against Trump. So, thank you, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, the Bush family, and all those luminaries who recognize the danger Trump presents and have spoken out against it early and often. Thank you, Jason Chavetz, for finally doing the right thing. Thank you all for honoring your oath to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution. Thank you for putting country and decency ahead of party.
Then there are the Republicans whose names will live in infamy, the profiles in craven, the ones who are running in safe districts or who are not up for reelection and still cannot bring themselves to part ways with Trump.
The prime example is the media’s favorite GOP policy wonk, Paul Ryan. Ryan claims that he “disagrees” with Trump and has criticized him for one sexist, racist, bigoted comment after another. And yet, Ryan has not rescinded his endorsement, not even in the face of the videotape of Trump talking in the crudest way possible about attempting to have sex with a married woman and about committing what the the law defines as sexual assault.
Unlike those Republicans in tossup races, Ryan won his primary in a landslide and would have won even if he had refused to endorse Trump. He could have stood bright as a beacon for his claimed Christian values, his conservatism, the country he claims to love.
But he hasn’t. Unlike Senators like McCain and Ayotte, who face competitive election contests and thus have something at stake, Ryan’s re-election is assured. But that doesn’t matter. Ryan has thrown his ballyhooed principles overboard solely to maintain or increase his political power.
Paul Ryan is a prime example of a Profile in Craven. And so are all those Republican Senators not up for re-election this year who yet still support Trump and all those Republican House members in safe districts who are assured of re-election and still support Trump.
Profiles in Craven, every single one of them.