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Opinion: Profiles in cowardice
Guest column

Opinion: Profiles in cowardice

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"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Each U.S. senator takes this oath when they are sworn in. Apparently, most of the current Republican senators had their fingers crossed. On Jan. 6, our Capitol was attacked by a mob. Five people died, many were injured, the vice president of the United States had to be hustled to safety and our Capitol, a lodestar of our democracy, was desecrated by hoodlums waving Confederate flags, Trump flags and American flags, which they then sacrilegiously used to beat and attack the Capitol Police.

Our Capitol, a symbol of democratic government around the world, has been breached only twice in over 200 years. Once by English soldiers during the War of 1812, and on Jan. 6 by a lowly mob of pseudo-patriots. Both invaders were attacking democracy. The British on behalf King George III, who at that time had lost his sanity but not his crown, and a scurrilous mob on behalf of a would-be king Donald Trump, who fortunately for our country had lost his crown — but retained his madness.

The angry mob was trying to stop the tallying of the votes of more than 150 million Americans who were participating in our 230-year-old experiment in democracy, whose hallmark is the peaceful transition of power. Tyrants always hate democracy and they are never looking for a transfer of power. As imperfect and difficult as it can be, democracy gives people a level of freedom never before found in history. The Jan. 6 mob wanted to take that freedom away in the name of a would-be king.

Our country now faces another mob. A mob of U.S. senators who refused to vote to investigate the causes of the Jan. 6 mob attack on democracy. The Senatorial mob doesn’t care if the planners of the attack are never identified, even though they may well be preparing to strike again. Thirty-five House Republicans joined House Democrats in passing a bipartisan bill that accommodated every Republican demand, to investigate Jan. 6. Ironically, 35 Republican senators actually voted against passing the House bill. And 11 senators didn’t even give the people they purport to represent a voice in this important decision. They not only didn’t vote, but some even left town before the vote. The safety of our Republic was less important to them than their Memorial Day weekend or their fear of taking a position.

Montana is a state with a long and prideful history of patriotism. A state that believes in honor, that believes in being as good as your word (or oath), and that takes pride in being an American under our form of constitutional democracy. U.S. Steve Daines, who pretends to represent Montana values, even claiming fifth-generation Montana heritage, turned his back on those values, joined the Republican Senate mob, mouthed an excuse and voted a cowardly “no.”

In 1956, then-Senator John Kennedy, who as president asked us “what we can do for our country,” wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book titled "Profiles in Courage," describing acts of political bravery and integrity by eight U.S. senators. What we have just seen from most Republican senators, including Steve Daines, are profiles in cowardice. For shame.

Steve Barrett is a retired attorney from Bozeman and former chair of the Montana Board of Regents.

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