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Sally Yates Nominated for Award She Can’t Win

Sally Yates made headlines this week for famously refusing to defend the President’s immigration order. The move was a political stunt of the highest magnitude and an easy way to grab 5 minutes of fame while she serves as a placeholder in the Attorneys General office. At the end of the day it was for nothing but optics, as the next Attorneys General Jeff Sessions would’ve surely reversed her decision in a few days when he is confirmed. As you would expect President Trump did what he does best, and Sally Yates was fired. Now California Congressman Jackie Speier has announced on Twitter that she has nominated Yates for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Getting yourself fired from a temporary position hardly seems courageous. Even the most cowardly individual can give the boss a piece of their mind after turning in their two week notice. You know you’re leaving anyways, maybe with a little luck you can score an unemployment check. That seems like the antithesis of courage, but if Bruce Jenner can be a woman, Elizabeth Warren can be Native America, and Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate ever, maybe Sally Yates can be courageous. Unfortunately the award criteria lays out a pretty clear picture of what courage should be.

“Today, elected officials are too often captives to opinion polls, reluctant to act in the broader public interest when it means taking unpopular courses of action or offending powerful groups. The Profile in Courage Award honors modern-day elected officials who govern for the greater good, even when it is not in their own interest to do so. The award celebrates individuals who choose the public interest over partisanship – who do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”

We all know that Yates stands no chance of having a high profile job under a Republican President, so this decision doesn’t hurt her in any way. It simply increases her appeal to the next Democratic administration, or grabs some name recognition for a book deal or private sector job. Yates’ decision clearly was not a rejection of her own self interest.

There’s also this issue of public opinion. To say that Yates is courageously going against public opinion is to also say that public opinion supports Trump’s immigration order. The Democrats and media have been yelling from the rooftops for days that the order is extremism and executive overreach. For Democrats to say Yates acted courageously against public opinion, they’re also legitimizing the order as a popular and mainstream action.

Even if we forget that little part about partisanship, the last time I checked the Attorneys General isn’t an elected official. The criteria here also clearly states that the award “honors modern-day elected officials.” How ironic that an AG who was fired for not enforcing the rule of law would be nominated for an award that, according to the rules, she can’t win. What a strange world we live in.


About the author

Sam Thomas

Sam is a youth minister, writer, political activist, and an avid fly fisherman. He coaches debate at Clark Atlanta University where he was named the 2016-17 Georgia Parliamentary Debate Coach of the Year.

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