U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is living proof that even stopped clocks are right twice a day.
Though she’s in error about many things, about Donald Trump’s danger to democracy Cheney actually is correct 24 hours a day. Give her the thanks she deserves.
Cheney’s the only Republican leader — now fired — in Congress with the testicular fortitude to publicly insist that Republicans stop endorsing Trump’s blatant falsehood that he won the election. She also wants a public accounting of who did what on Jan. 6.
Republicans don’t come much more dedicated to conservatism than this hardnosed 54-year-old woman from Wyoming. Nor do apples fall much closer to the tree.
She’s the daughter of Dick Cheney, who once occupied her seat in the House of Representatives and, like Liz, was chair of the House Republican Conference. Her father was secretary of defense for Bush I. As vice-president carrying the national security portfolio for Bush II, he made regrettable news of his own by missing warnings of the 9/11 attack, championing torture and accidentally shooting a hunting companion.
His daughter shares her father’s enthusiasm for waterboarding and the Republican trifecta: low taxes on the rich, weak government and a strong military. She dislikes Obamacare, environmental regulation, gun control, abortion, “socialism” and gay marriage — though when her sister wed a woman, Liz congratulated them privately while publicly condemning such marriages.
She’s been a good soldier. She’s voted more faithfully for Trump’s agenda than the woman picked to replace her, Elise Stefanik, 36, a former moderate Republican from New York who seized a promotion by embracing Trump. This earned Stefanik unflattering epithets, “shapeshifter” and “moral acrobat” among them.
Calling out the lies
None of Liz Cheney’s conservative credentials mattered. Her intolerable offense was that, unlike most of her Republican colleagues, she gagged on the unswallowable, poisonous fiction that Trump had won. And she dared to publicly call Trump on his lies, surely knowing she risked her leadership job and being voted out of office.
Trump won Wyoming by nearly 70% in 2020, the highest percentage anywhere, and Wyoming’s GOP called for Cheney’s resignation after she voted to impeach Trump for fomenting the seditious attempt to prevent Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election.
Before she was fired, Cheney told her mostly male colleagues: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his (Trump’s) destructive lies, I’m not your person.”
So they threw her out. Now “she looks like Churchill and they look like little men with umbrellas,” as Peggy Noonan, President Ronald Reagan’s speech writer, aptly put it in the Wall Street Journal. “It makes the party look stupid and weak, as if it can’t tolerate dissent.”
The little men with umbrellas put the Republican Party on the side of a lie to appease Trump and thereby cling to office. “They think the way out is to be quiet and hope the fever passes. Here is the fact of our current political life: the fever never passes. It has to be treated. By not pushing back they create more crazy,” Noonan admonished.
Cheney warns that placating Trump only paves his way back to power. “He’s unfit,” she reminds.
Cheney gets Trump’s treasonous role on Jan. 6 exactly right: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Her warnings to her party are spot on: “We really can’t become the party of a cult of personality. It’s a really scary phenomenon we haven’t seen in this country before. Our oath and our loyalty is to the Constitution, not to an individual — particularly after what happened on Jan. 6.”
“We cannot become the party of QAnon,” she argues. “We cannot become the party of Holocaust denial. We cannot become the party of white supremacy.”
Best of luck with all that.
A lot of “mansplaining” occurred as Cheney’s fate was being decided. Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina complained to Cheney that what bothered him “is your attitude. You’ve got a defiant attitude.”
Hello? A Cheney with “attitude”? Oh, surely not.
Rep. John Rutherford of Florida told her she was not “a team player.” Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania informed her that she has “a low E.Q.” — emotional quotient. Perhaps because, as one unnamed attendee described it, Cheney “stood implacably” throughout her dismissal ordeal, “as emotional as algebra.”
Try for a moment, Dear Reader, to imagine these men saying such things to Cheney were she male.
On his way out the door, the New York Times reported, one congressman remarked: “I just got to spend four hours listening to a bunch of men complaining to a woman that she doesn’t take their emotions into account.”
“Liz Cheney was canceled today for speaking her mind,” admitted Ken Buck of Colorado.
Of course, this nasty business isn’t really about Liz Cheney’s career, though some habitual cynics understandably suspect that Cheney political ambitions are in play here. It’s actually about whether Republicans can win elections if all citizens are allowed to vote and whether Americans will accept election outcomes as valid.
Some Republicans who claimed the presidency was stolen from Trump now pretend they never said any such thing. Is it dawning on them that destroying voter confidence in the last election destroys confidence in any future election that Republicans themselves might win — after they finish gerrymandering and erecting discriminatory barriers to voting?
Solveig Torvik lives near Winthrop.