Thursday, May 13, 2021

It's tempting to view Liz Cheney as a saint for calling out Donald Trump's "Big Lie," but her family's ties to other GOP deceptions should give all of us pause

Liz Cheney


As an avowed progressive, I've become enamored lately with U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her willingness to call out Donald Trump for his "Big Lie" that Joe Biden did not really win the 2020 presidential election. But David Corn, of Mother Jones, cautions that folks like me should not be too quick to canonize Cheney. That's because, Corn suggests, Trump was such a godawful president that he made many of us forget how bad George W. Bush and his VP -- Dick Cheney, Liz's dad -- were.

And so, Corn is here to remind us, in a piece titled: "How Liz Cheney and Her Dad Paved the Way for the Big Lie; She says Donald Trump crossed a line. But the Bush-Cheney administration didn’t? Writes Corn:

In recent days, Liz Cheney has become the hot celeb of the American media-political world. The conservative Republican representative from Wyoming is on the verge of being excommunicated from the House GOP leadership ranks because she has dared to speak an inconvenient truth: Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and his incitement of the seditious attack on the US Capitol “is a line that cannot be crossed.” Those recent remarks—coupled with her vote to convict Trump during Impeachment II—have provoked outrage from the Trump cultists within her party who are now demanding she be stripped of her post as the conference chair, the No. 3 spot in the Republican House caucus. And the betting odds are not in favor of the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney

Cheney is undergoing a GOP version of a Soviet show trial. She has not demonstrated full and complete obedience to the party leader, so she must be destroyed. This is Orwellian. As the author of 1984 wrote, “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.” And in that dystopian novel, poor Winston Smith is tortured at the Ministry of Love until he shouts two plus two equals five. Only then is he allowed to rejoin society. Cheney challenges Trump’s Big Lie—I won!—and refuses to whitewash the January 6 attack and Trump’s responsibility for it. Consequently, GOP Big Brother must squash her, and it looks as if her fellow House Republicans will vote to remove her from the conference chair. If they could defenestrate her, they probably would. 

But for accepting reality and stating the obvious—Biden won, and it’s bad for a president to encourage a violent assault on Congress—Cheney (outside of Republican congressional circles) has won hoorays. Writing on CNN’s website, GOP consultant Scott Jennings observed that Cheney is “now positioned as a principled martyr.” In a recent Washington Post column, she wrapped herself in such noble garb, slamming Trump for “seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work—confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.” And she noted, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.” Cheney also sharply pointed out that her boss, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Republican leader, said in January that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress “by mob rioters”—but has shifted his position since then. 

Should Liz Cheney be portrayed as a hero for speaking out at the risk of hurting her political future? Not so fast, says Corn:

Cheney does these days look like a courageous truth-teller, defying the cultism and alternative-fact addiction that has taken over her Grand Old Party. But, in a way, she is the victim of her own success–that is, the success of her family. In particular, the success her father had in lying to the American public.

In the 21st century, American presidents have at least twice tried to shape the world with a lie of enormous impact. Trump attempted to demolish the nation’s constitutional order and retain power with his false claim that the 2020 election was rigged and Joe Biden did not truly receive more votes. As Cheney points out, this lie delegitimizes the essence of the American political system. And two decades ago, another Big Lie was concocted and pushed by a Republican president that resulted in profound (and lethal) consequences. Her dad was its main architect.

That was the untrue allegation that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass of destruction and was prepared to use them against the United States. The Bush-Cheney administration used these charges to garner public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Dick Cheney was the chief pitchman for this flimflam. In an August 2002 speech, he proclaimed, “There is no doubt [Saddam] is amassing [WMDs] to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” Soon after that, he publicly asserted that Saddam was trying to obtain aluminum tubes that could only be used for enriching uranium for weapons. And he also publicly cited a report that one of the 9/11 ringleaders had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.

None of this was true. And Dick Cheney’s lies were not the result of intelligence failures. U.S. intelligence over the previous year had assessed that Saddam did not have a worrisome WMD program. Government scientists had concluded that the aluminum tubes in question were not usable for weapon-grade enrichment. And the CIA had discredited that Prague report. Yet none of this inhibited Cheney and President George W. Bush. They spent months dishing out an assortment of false statements—including the untrue claim that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda—to grease the way to war. They succeeded. Bush won the support of Congress and the American public for his massive blunder in Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam’s dictatorship but it yielded a geo-strategic and deadly mess in the region. About 200,000 Iraqi civilians died in the ensuing years due to the war. More than 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives in the war. 

One lesson of the Iraq war is that a big lie can work. Liz Cheney, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs during this stretch, supported the war—and has defended it ever since. (She co-wrote a 2015 book with her dad on US foreign policy.) She even insisted that one of the main lies of the Bush-Cheney fraudulent case for war—that there had been a significant connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq—was true. (She also hawkishly defended a sordid chapter of that sordid war: torture, saying it was “libelous” to call waterboarding “torture.”)

The Cheney clan's connections to Big Lies, however, do not end with Iraq. Writes Corn:

There was another odious lie that Liz Cheney also defended—or played footsie with: the racist conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Asked about birtherism in 2009, she replied, “I think the Democrats have got more crazies than the Republicans do. But setting that aside, one of the reasons you see people so concerned about this, I think this issue is, people are uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.” Without endorsing the conspiratorial and disproven details of this nutty notion, Cheney was providing moral support to its adherents. (Trump’s championship of this lie helped turn him into a right-wing hero and set up the foundation for his 2016 presidential bid.) 

It is a good thing that a hardcore conservative like Liz Cheney has joined the opposition to the Trumpian authoritarianism that has fully infected one of the nation’s two major political parties. Most of the GOP base is beyond persuasion. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Republicans believe Biden did not win the election legitimately. The denialists lost in the swamps of Foxlandia won’t be swayed by a Liz Cheney op-ed. But for conservative Americans who give a damn about Trump’s war on reality and the Constitution—unfortunately, a minority—Cheney’s current stance could boost their spirits and spine. And the fight to protect American democracy needs as many enlistees as can be mustered, on the left, in the middle, and on the right. 

Still, Liz Cheney deserves hardly a cheer, for it ought to be remembered that Trump is pushing his Big Lie in the wake of other big lies—and that Cheney, her father, and so many other Republicans not so long ago did much to blaze the path for the dangerous political villainy she now decries.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with you on many things, but I have to agree that the worst political decision in my long lifetime was the decision by Bush and Cheney to go back into Iraq and depose Hussein. That decision will negatively affect America for the rest of my life. So stupid! Unfortunately this is par for the course for almost all politicians

legalschnauzer said...

David Corn makes a number of good points, but I still kind of admire what Liz Cheney is doing. She's fighting for the soul of one of our political parties -- and we only have two biggies -- so that's extremely important.

legalschnauzer said...

I guess this comes under the heading of "You don't have to have a perfect past (none of us does) to make an important contribution in the present or future. Liz Cheney does have ties to "Big Lies" of days gone by, but I think her actions now are still valid.

It's kind of an Apostle Paul story. He had a sketchy past, but wound up doing some pretty important stuff later on.

legalschnauzer said...

CNN: Cheney on Trump: 'He's going to unravel the democracy to come back into power'

Rep. Liz Cheney is outlining her next steps in the aftermath of her ousting from leadership, telling NBC, "I intend to be the leader, one of the leaders, in a fight to help to restore our party," and warning that former President Donald Trump is willing "to unravel the democracy to come back into power."
The Wyoming congresswoman, and now former House Republican Conference chair, also didn't rule out a run for president in the "Today" interview that aired Thursday morning, but she did confirm she will run for reelection for her US House seat next year.
Cheney said "silence is not an option" when speaking out against Trump, and she said admonishments from her fellow Republicans to move forward are not possible because the damage that the former president is causing is "an ongoing threat." The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney reiterated her assertion Wednesday that Trump cannot become president again.

"He's unfit," she said. "He never again can be anywhere close to the Oval Office."

"For reasons that I don't understand, leaders in my party have decided to embrace the former President who launched that attack," Cheney said. "And I think you've watched over the course of the last several months, the former President get more aggressive, more vocal, pushing the lie, and I think that's a really important thing for people to understand. This isn't about looking backwards. This is about the real-time current potential damage that he's doing, that he continues to do."

Steve said...

The GOP sold its soul to be able to cheat Al Gore out of the Presidency in 2000.
The reward? Accelerated Global Warming, 9/11 The Iraq debacle. Forever was in Afghanistan!
Cheney was the salesman!

legalschnauzer said...

Excellent point, Steve. Trump is bad news, but the GOP's "Big Lies" didn't start with him.

legalschnauzer said...

From Politico: Cheney: McCarthy 'not leading with principle'

Rep. Liz Cheney ripped into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday over his loyalty to former President Donald Trump.

“I think he is not leading with principle right now,” Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview on NBC’s “Today" show. “I think that it is sad, and I think it’s dangerous.”

The interview came one day after McCarthy (R-Calif.) orchestrated Cheney's removal from her leadership position as Republican conference chair. GOP lawmakers had soured over the past month on Cheney's unreserved criticism of the former president over his repeated lies about the 2020 elections and Trump’s role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

“For reasons that I don’t understand leaders in my party have decided to embrace the former president,” Cheney said.

For his part, McCarthy has denied the idea that election denialism is an animating principal within the Republican party.

"I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” McCarthy said outside the White House on Tuesday hours after ousting Cheney from party leadership over her refusal to cooperate with Trump's campaign to undermine the results of the 2020 election.

Cheney said she was gobsmacked that the minority leader traveled to Trump’s Florida resort less than a month after the deadly insurrection that gripped the Capitol.

"Leader McCarthy’s visit to the former president at Mar-a-Lago was really stunning given what the former president did,” she said. “He provoked an attack on the Capitol — an attack on our democracy. I can’t understand why you’d want to go rehabilitate him.”

The Wyoming Republican’s detractors say her Trump bashing had become a divisive force within the GOP and a nuisance, particularly for someone in a leadership role responsible for party messaging and presenting a unified front.
McCarthy after ousting Cheney: 'I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election'

The disempowerment of Cheney — the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and until yesterday the House's highest-ranking female Republican — has delighted the former president and his supporters, who view her as an extension of the Bush era of the party that they have sought to root out. Trump called Cheney a "bitter, horrible human being" and a detriment to the Republican brand in a statement Tuesday.

legalschnauzer said...

As a libtard, I never thought I would find myself agreeing so much with Liz Cheney.