Liz Cheney, newly ousted from the House Republican leadership, is battling back through the media.
She launches a blitz this week that runs from the “Today” show to Fox’s “Special Report,” casting herself as the leader of a new movement within the Republican Party.
But is she?
And will it amount to much?
In telling Savannah Guthrie to “bring it on!”, the Wyoming congresswoman has unfurled a giant banner for the anti-Trump troops to march behind. But there just aren’t that many of them in the GOP, which is dominated by the former president.
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And that leaves Cheney close to politically homeless. While liberals and much of the media have embraced her, some of them can’t abide her hawkish policies, and have crusaded against them since her father was vice president. So Kevin McCarthy led the effort to dump her, but most Democrats can’t quite embrace her.
After yesterday’s vote, Cheney made clear that she won’t become an obscure backbencher. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets near the Oval Office,” she told reporters. “We have seen the danger he continues to provoke with his language.”
Whether you like Cheney or not, you have to credit her with acting on principle at considerable risk to her career.
She is “considering an expanded political operation that would allow her to endorse and financially support other Republican candidates who share her view of the danger that Trump poses to the Republican Party and the country,” the Washington Post reports, citing a person close to her.
Trump, for his part, has unleashed a cascading series of denunciations against her, including this doozy:
“Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being…She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country. She is a talking point for Democrats, whether that means the Border, the gas lines, inflation, or destroying our economy. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster… I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!”
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Actually, an incumbent lawmaker can’t be a paid contributor, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be appearing for free.
The Post quoted Bill Kristol, the former Weekly Standard publisher, as saying Cheney could lead a Republican faction of perhaps 10 to 15 percent. That seems like a pretty small minority. And her fundraising prowess has yet to be seen.
Meanwhile, a couple of low-profile Republicans are launching an effort that threatens to form a third party. One is Evan McMullen, a former National Review writer who mounted a gadfly independent candidacy for the White House in 2016. The other is Miles Taylor, whose “Anonymous” column was hyped by the New York Times as being by a senior Trump administration official, though he was just Homeland Security’s chief of staff.
Reuters says the 100-plus people signing will include former governors Tom Ridge and Christie Whitman. But so what? A bunch of former officeholders who will never run for office again doesn’t give the group much clout.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty is appropriately skeptical:
“Is the plan for this new right-leaning third party to simply poach existing Republican officeholders who share their opposition to Donald Trump’s insane conspiracy theories? Or is the idea that between now and November 2022, hundreds of candidates who are conservative in their thinking and policy proposals, but resolutely anti-Trump, will emerge?”
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At the heart of the not-so-cold war between Cheney and Trump are the unproven claims of a stolen election. The congresswoman, backed by most of the media, says the Republicans are on a kamikaze mission by embracing—or remaining quiet about—the Trump allegations.
But most politicians put self-preservation first, and crossing the 45th president can mean a primary challenge that knocks them out of the game.
Yet Trump, who relishes this fight, is at least as responsible for the way it is dominating media and political discourse. In one recent statement on how the victim of a jewel heist should get his gems back, he was obviously insinuating that he should return to power.
Cheney may well be the champion of a new political philosophy–call it Liz-ism—to restore her party to its conservative roots. But the giant specter of Trumpism stands in her way.