Politics & Policy

In Defense of Liz Cheney

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
It’s to the Wyoming congresswoman's credit that she speaks her mind, even when her views depart from those of the president.

In this summer of Republican discontent, a handful of GOP House members have identified what’s ailing the party: Liz Cheney.

The two-term Wyoming congresswoman, chair of the House GOP Conference, and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was called out at a conference meeting for myriad alleged sins, including insufficient loyalty to President Donald Trump.

This episode is much more telling about Cheney’s internal GOP critics than about Cheney.

She rightly refuses to play by the dumb rule insisted on by MAGA and Never-Trump Republicans from their respective parts of the spectrum, that the only two options are to submit to the president totally or to oppose him totally, with no honorable space in between.

Cheney is a member of Republican leadership, which imposes its obligations, but she hasn’t checked her mind or conscience at the door.

She has deeply held views on foreign policy and doesn’t hide them, even when they depart from those of the president.

She has also been a consistent voice for taking the pandemic seriously and wearing masks and has defended Anthony Fauci. Can anyone doubt that if Trump had taken her tack, he’d be in a stronger position today?

But some of Cheney’s colleagues are upset with her rather than the president. Her occasional dissents supposedly endanger the project of taking back the House, an absurd notion.

This is a variant of the odd political accounting of the most fervent Trump supporters. By their lights, if, say, the president stumbles his way through a Fox News Sunday interview, that’s not the problem. No, the problem is only if someone who is right-of-center points out that the president stumbled his way through the interview.

This logic has put an accent on whispered conversations in the GOP — even the most vociferous defenders of the president will often admit in private that they are disquieted or even outraged by something Trump has said or done, but they won’t dare say it openly.

It is also a way to deflect any responsibility from the president, when, obviously, if the worst comes in November, it will be because of what he did in office, not because Liz Cheney said it’s a bad idea to pull U.S. troops out of Germany.

Whatever you think of Cheney, she inarguably has a well-thought-out worldview that she defends resolutely and thoughtfully. The same can’t be said of one of the leaders of the fusillade against her, Trump epigone Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican.

Gaetz long ago realized the power of clownishness — it generates interest, and interest means cable TV bookings, and TV bookings equal a kind of notoriety. Why be an unknown backbencher from Florida with zero substance when you can be a known backbencher from Florida with zero substance?

The Cheney episode shows how loyalty, or purported loyalty, to Trump is used as a political bludgeon in internal GOP fights.

According to Senator Rand Paul, who took shots at her in the press after the GOP meeting, “She tries to sabotage everything he tries to do in foreign policy, so I don’t know whether she’s a good advocate for the president.”

But it’s not as though when Paul strongly disagrees with Trump, the senator salutes smartly and marches in lockstep.

Earlier this year in the wake of the Soleimani killing, Gaetz himself was one of only four Republicans to vote in favor of an amendment to deny funding for unauthorized military actions against Iran.

The backdrop to the Cheney conflict is a broader fight over foreign policy. At the moment, that takes the form of a struggle to influence Trump’s policy decisions. If the president loses, it will be one of a host of ideological conflicts over the direction of a post-Trump party.

Whichever way it goes, Cheney is going to be a formidable voice, and her willingness to speak her mind, even at times when it is discouraged, redounds to her credit.

© 2020 by King Features Syndicate

A Haven for the Sane

If you think there should be a corner of our journalistic and intellectual life that defends right reason and is an alternative to the unhinged mainstream media, and if you have been alarmed at the sound of the American mind slamming shut at so many institutions recently, please lend National Review your support.
SUPPORT NR TODAY

Most Popular

U.S.

New York City’s Downward Spiral

New York City must be one of the few places on earth where chaos nostalgia is widespread. Many were the laments, in the Giuliani-Bloomberg era, that the city was “too sanitized,” “too gentrified,” “too boring,” “anodyne,” “suburban.” Often you’d hear people saying, or declaiming, that their ... Read More
U.S.

New York City’s Downward Spiral

New York City must be one of the few places on earth where chaos nostalgia is widespread. Many were the laments, in the Giuliani-Bloomberg era, that the city was “too sanitized,” “too gentrified,” “too boring,” “anodyne,” “suburban.” Often you’d hear people saying, or declaiming, that their ... Read More
Elections

Wait, Joe Biden Picked That Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris? Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris? Out of all of Biden's options, he chose the rival whose presidential campaign is best remembered for her attack on him, contending he opposed busing? The rival who said the way he described his relationship with old segregationists was “hurtful”! The woman ... Read More
Elections

Wait, Joe Biden Picked That Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris? Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris? Out of all of Biden's options, he chose the rival whose presidential campaign is best remembered for her attack on him, contending he opposed busing? The rival who said the way he described his relationship with old segregationists was “hurtful”! The woman ... Read More
Elections

The Coming Color Revolution

Listen, you’re reading this on the Internet, so I assume you can figure out how to reach my bosses and the human-resources people, maybe even the people I love. We all know you can figure out how to poison my dog. And so, with that in mind, I want to assure the readers that, officially, I believe the polls. And ... Read More
Elections

The Coming Color Revolution

Listen, you’re reading this on the Internet, so I assume you can figure out how to reach my bosses and the human-resources people, maybe even the people I love. We all know you can figure out how to poison my dog. And so, with that in mind, I want to assure the readers that, officially, I believe the polls. And ... Read More