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The Federalist
The Federalist
6 Jan 2024

NextImg:Cheney's Memoir Offers Warning About Ruling Class, Not Trump

Liz Cheney published a new memoir last month to cement her legacy as a political martyr whose career on Capitol Hill fell at the whims of an American “dictator.” The reality is far different. The ex-Wyoming lawmaker who struggled in congressional leadership dismissed her constituents to chase political fame with a personal vendetta and now wants to be remembered as a folk hero for democracy.

To the right, Cheney is a political opportunist who turned on her party to capitalize on a media environment hungry for Republicans eager to attack Republicans. To the left, she’s a profile in courage whose policy prescriptions render her unelectable. Does Cheney want to be president? Find someone on Capitol Hill who doesn’t. Her path might be impossible, but the incentives are the same for any politician with a platform: cash and camera time are the lucrative currency that can make just about anyone say just about anything.

Cheney would have readers believe she was kicked out of Congress because she attacked former President Donald Trump.

“I had watched thousands of hardworking, good-hearted people across Wyoming fall prey to Donald Trump’s lies,” Cheney wrote. “Some truly believed the falsehoods he was spreading. Others knew the truth but chose to perpetuate lies.”

At first glance, it makes sense that Cheney’s resounding defeat in Wyoming was brought about by Trump. Cheney was re-elected to the lower chamber in 2020 by a nearly identical margin as the former president. Her principal opponent who ultimately ousted the three-term incumbent and carried the seat ran with Trump’s endorsement. Cheney lost home-state support once she became the target of the former president. If Cheney’s loss was so black-and-white, however, then Sen. John Barrasso might be in the hot seat this summer, whom Trump called “flunky” and a “rubber stamp” for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Instead, Barrasso, who chairs the Republican Senate Conference, is seen as a likely successor for the aging Senate leader from Kentucky, the most unpopular politician in America.

Cheney wasn’t removed from her number three perch in House leadership and eventually the lower chamber altogether just because she picked a fight with the former president. It was how she picked the fight. Cheney dropped her responsibilities to constituents to lead the Democrats’ partisan crusade exploiting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to tar political dissidents and capitalize on the stardom that comes with anti-Trump punditry. Despite half the state being under the jurisdiction of the federal government, for example, Cheney left her seat on the House Natural Resources Committee navigating Wyoming’s myriad public lands issues to direct her energy toward her vendetta against Trump with summer show trials. In the process, the Wyoming congresswoman smeared legitimate concerns about the integrity of U.S. elections.

Far from a first-person political thriller from a key player in the nation’s capital, Cheney’s book is a predictable tale from a bitter ex-congresswoman who was ousted from her chairmanship over the GOP conference before she was ultimately rejected by her constituents. The book reads as if Barbie were expelled from Barbieland except that Barbie is a warmonger who became woke when it became politically convenient.

For example, Cheney embraces a form of identity politics alien to the kind of conservative voters who characterize her state. When recounting the first debate among the House Republican conference on whether to remove her from leadership, Cheney complained that many of those who lodged complaints were men. Cheney faced the referendum for undermining the party’s agenda with her continued feud with the former president, who’s remained the most popular Republican in the country.

“I was standing at the podium at the front of the auditorium thinking, You’ve got to be kidding me. Other female members started yelling, ‘She’s not your girlfriend!'” Cheney wrote. “‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘I’m not your girlfriend.'”

Cheney survived the first vote on her removal but lost the second several months later. Cheney was also replaced both in leadership and in Congress by female candidates, so the “I’m a woman” schtick doesn’t hold up. And while Cheney spilt ink to characterize then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as a struggling fundraiser, she ignored her own poor performance with raising cash which played no small role in her removal.

Also absent from the book was any serious consideration that differences with the Republican base on foreign policy might have led to her demise in public office. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted in line with the Trump administration more than 92 percent of the time. Where she primarily broke with the Republican president was on foreign affairs, with Cheney representing the establishment faction of neocons in Congress who press for reckless intervention overseas.

Before she joined the Democrats’ Jan. 6 Select Committee, Cheney spread the bogus Russian bounties story claiming Trump ignored Kremlin dollar signs on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan. Her support for endless aid to Ukraine stands far apart from the majority of Republicans who say the U.S. has spent too much.

Instead, Cheney spent 384 pages laser-focused on declaring Trump “the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.” Among the more ironic portions of the book were comparisons of today’s Republican Party to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Cheney recalled a passage from her mother’s 1995 book quoting former Czech President Vaclav Havel which told the story of a greengrocer who, “during the years of Soviet domination, decided not to display a sign bearing the Communist Party’s slogan in his shop window.”

“That small act of dissension from the state orthodoxy had the potential to shatter everything, so the state could not accept it. The greengrocer would have to be punished,” Cheney wrote.

I kept thinking about this story as I reflected on what was happening in the Republican Party — and, in particular, within the House Republican Conference. House Republicans could not accept it when I answered questions truthfully, when I refused to repeat Trump’s party line about the 2020 election, or January 6.

More than a hundred pages later, Cheney, whose Jan. 6 inquisition quite literally conducted Soviet-style show trials, called on those who raised objections to the 2020 election to be “punished.”

“In a just world,” Cheney wrote, “the January 6th Select Committee investigation, and the criminal prosecutions that have now followed, would be the end of a dark period in our nation’s history.”

“Donald Trump and those who aided him would be scorned and punished,” she added.

If Cheney believes Trump is a threat to “democracy,” she might write a book on what the Democrats are doing less than 12 months from the next election. The GOP frontrunner now faces a combined 91 state and federal charges meant to imprison the Democrats’ top political opponent ahead of elections already being rigged by stripping Republicans of ballot access altogether. At least 20 states are now deciding whether to keep Trump off the ballot after officials in Colorado and Maine took the extraordinary step to disqualify the likely Republican candidate.

Cheney, however, wrote to justify such efforts to bar Trump from the presidency. The former congresswoman who voted to impeach the president in 2021 could not have been more direct about the threat she believes Trump presents in a memoir she branded as a “warning” in the title. In November, Cheney says, “We will be voting on whether to preserve our republic.”

“As a nation, we can endure damaging policies for a four-year term,” she wrote. “But we cannot survive a president willing to terminate our Constitution.”

One might even call this rhetoric “assassination prep.” When someone has cast an existential threat to the republic and freedom itself, anything can be justified to stop them. Taking out political opponents is a common feature of nation states where elections are rigged and dissidents are jailed.