With CHARLIE HARPER
Liz Cheney is an improbable saviour-martyr.
But as the overblown drama of her dismissal as the third-ranking Republican in the party’s House of Representatives leadership table has played out in the mass print media and on television news and opinion shows during the past week, Cheney was increasingly being portrayed as just that – a saviour-martyr.
In fairness to the Republican Party, it’s helpful to examine the position from which she was sacked yesterday morning. The number three spot in the House GOP hierarchy is titled the House Conference Chair, and its principal responsibility is messaging.
That means first and foremost the incumbent must relentlessly push the current Republican Party line. Under House minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California and his deputy, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, that course includes overall fealty to ex-President Donald Trump.
To observe that Cheney is out of step with her party’s House leadership is a colossal understatement. Consider some of the things she has said in the past several days:
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former President, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.
“Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President,” Cheney continued. “They have heard only his words but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”
It is entirely plausible to surmise Cheney was booted out of her party’s House leadership because she did almost nothing to avert such a fate.
Many observers feel this is part of an evolving strategic political plan whereby she assumes a leading role in returning to power the Republican apparatus of her ex-Vice President father and his allies.
Even as she denounces Trump in stark, unambiguous terms, Cheney reminds those paying attention that “I am a conservative Republican and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted,” Cheney said.
“More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former President appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former President’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.
“Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution,” Cheney said, adding, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Liz Cheney has become almost a household name in the US overnight. News shows on both sides of the political spectrum have seized on her defiance of Trump and her skilful oratory to showcase this lone congressperson from the remote, largely forgotten state of Wyoming that has historically played virtually no role in national politics.
She is being portrayed as an underdog, battling gamely for principle against a tyrannical demagogue of almost mythical proportions.
Among other things, what we are watching in America is convincing evidence that the mass media has learned virtually nothing from its many mistakes over the past half-dozen years.
During that period, all while proclaiming their role as the last bastion of defence against the “anti-democratic” Trump, the media continued to amplify and magnify a megalomaniac and shower him with more free publicity than even he could have ever afforded to pay for.
Now we’re seeing that behaviour begin to be repeated in the media treatment of Cheney. Commentators and pundits across the major TV networks and liberal cable outlets are starting to celebrate her as the last, best hope for the restoration of a responsible Republican Party.
Liz Cheney, it turns out, voted for Trump policies and initiatives 93 percent of the time while he was President. Few can recall any of her principled defiance while Trump was riding high atop a booming economy and a wave of indulgent support from half or more of the American electorate.
But now, with Trump effectively muzzled for at least six more months from his favoured free public platforms and with some evidence that his popularity with Republicans is starting to sag a bit, Cheney has stepped forward to lead the way to the promised land for Republicans.
She has cleverly managed to become the newest bright shiny media thing. Cheney is a skilful politician. She’s smart, committed, passionate and clever enough to see a path forward to a different GOP than the one we see at present.
But where is she leading?
Most Americans, like most voters in many places around the world, have very short memories. They won’t likely recall many events from less than 20 years ago, after the stunning terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington on 9/11/2001.
After that unspeakable national trauma, a group of dedicated, focused conservatives led by Liz’s father Dick, then Vice-President, set about to enlarge presidential power in the name of national security, engage in terribly costly, misdirected overseas wars and adventurism and generally eroding American constitutional norms under the banner of the national security interest.
We may be entering what may be one of the most discouraging epochs in American political history, during which the continuing menace of a brazen buffoon may lead the country to turn for redemption to a cynical conspiratorial cabal that drove the US into a political and military ditch less than two decades ago with the misbegotten Iraq war.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, still widely read and highly regarded after decades in the public eye, wrote over the weekend that “shockingly, the Republicans who eroded America’s moral authority — selling us the Iraq war, torture, a prolonged Afghanistan occupation and Sarah Palin — have somehow become the new guardians of America’s moral authority.
“Trump built a movement based on lies. But the Cheneys had showed him how it’s done.”
There are times when it’s difficult to find reasons for optimism when considering America’s political future. This is looking like one of them.
Messages from Mount Trump
While the US continues its search for a respectable path out of the mire left behind by Trump, what of the master showman himself?
How is he doing as he leaves the summer heat and humidity of Palm Beach for the cooler climate at his suburban New Jersey golf club outside New York City?
According to numerous reports, he often delivers rambling, disjointed, untruthful but nonetheless classic extemporaneous diatribes to dinner guests from the platform of his Mar a Lago resort in Palm Beach.
Apparently, edited versions of these sermons from Mount Trump are then promulgated for the enlightenment of the masses through devices such as a blog entitled “From the Desk of President Donald Trump.”
It’s no surprise to discover Trump is up to his old tricks on this blog – attacking Republicans who refuse to obey him, continuing to insist that he actually won the November election, and finally, getting around to attacking the policies of the administration of President Joe Biden, who actually won in November.
According to widely quoted expert analysts on the subject, Trump’s new blog has drawn a very much smaller audience than he once attracted on mainstream social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The reach and flexibility of Trump’s new blog is relatively limited, since users can’t comment or engage with the actual posts beyond sharing them to other platforms.
Before the ban on him imposed by outlets such as Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, a single Trump tweet was typically liked and retweeted hundreds of thousands of times, sometimes in a single day.
Trump continues to brood. Liz Cheney seems to be ascending, despite a partisan fall from grace. A new group of veteran conservatives yesterday threatened to form a new, spinoff party “true to traditional Republican values” if the current version of the GOP doesn’t come to its senses soon and reform itself.
Where will it all lead? It’s fascinating, but also profoundly scary, to consider the future.