Is Mike Enzi Pater Familias? And is Liz Cheney Bona Fide?

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

Having breakfast with Liz Cheney recently and listening to her at our Rotary Club got me thinking about this unprecedented Republican U. S. Senate primary race going on in Wyoming.

Cheney and three-term senior Sen. Mike Enzi have raised over two million dollars and the primary election is not until August 2014.  Amazing.

This race got me thinking about a movie.

Watching the Coen Brothers motion picture, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, brings to mind some great lines in connection with the race between Cheney and Enzi.

I love one scene especially.  Actor George Clooney’s character escapes prison and tracks down his wife (actress Holly Hunter) and their seven daughters.

Holly has decided to divorce George and marry an accountant.

She proclaims her new beau is “bona fide,” much to George’s chagrin.  This means her fiancée is a not a pretender, but a substantial person.

When told this, Clooney starts yelling. He caps off his diatribe proclaiming: “But I am the Pater Familias!”  This means he is the father of the family and the patriarch of this brood.

How does this relate to Wyoming?

Liz Cheney’s connections to her former home state of Virginia might cause Wyoming voters to wonder if she is “bona fide” when it comes to serving the citizens of our state.

As for “Pater Familias,” it is easy to visualize Sen. Enzi as the patriarch of our state’s Congressional delegation. His grandfatherly demeanor offers comfort as he legitimately plays that role to the 580,000 Wyomingites.

But I digress.

On this recent Wednesday, I was having breakfast in Lander with my kid brother Ron from Cheyenne. We were joined by the Fox News All-Stars coffee group at the Best Western.  Then Liz Cheney and her entourage, which included Amy Womack of Cheyenne and Lois Herbst of Shoshoni, joined us.

Liz was pleasant and talkative.  Her Suburban was covered with snow from her drive over Togwotee Pass from Jackson early on this November morning.

When talk came to Obamacare, she related how she just found out her 13-year old daughter was diagnosed with type I diabetes. There was no evidence of diabetes in her family. The daughter is a great barrel racer, Liz proudly recounted.

Dave Langerman brought up the concept for ID cards when people vote, which she supports. “Sort of like when getting a fishing license?” she quipped.

The 47-year old mother of five talked with Sheriff Skip Hornecker about her dad’s experience in Lander at the One Shot Antelope Hunt. Skip guided former Vice President Dick Cheney a month ago.

Our get-together was occurring the day after key national elections were held. In her former home state of Virginia, ex-Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe barely won election in the governor’s race.

“Off the record, he’s a scumbag,” Liz said, and recalled charges that McAuliffe had been implicated in money laundering between unions and the Democrat National Party.

She is enjoying her statewide campaign and said: “People in Wyoming really treasure their vote.  They ask great questions.”

We talked about how the New York Times says Wyoming voters have more influence than anyone in America.  In Wyoming, we have one U. S. Senator for every 290,000 people.  In California, for example, it is one U. S. Senator for every 18 million people.

Cheney is an articulate speaker but did nothing to convince me that she could replace someone of the caliber of Enzi.  History may very well judge Enzi as the best U. S. Senator in Wyoming’s history.

Cheney did share some funny experiences at the State Fair parade in Douglas. She recalled when she was 12 she got lost on the parade route while helping her dad campaign.

In 2013, at the same parade, she had her three youngest kids helping throw out candy from her convertible.

She sat her kids down before the parade and asked them if they remembered what they were supposed to do?

One child said to not throw the candy too hard or at people’s faces.

The second one said to throw the candy to the side and behind so nobody got run over.

Her first grade son, Richard, was then asked if he could remember what he should not do.

“Yes,” he proudly told her. “Don’t fart.”

Oh yeah, I left the morning discussion early as I had another appointment. That noon when I greeted Liz at Rotary, she approached me and said, “Did you forget something this morning? I had to pay for your breakfast.”



Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at







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