While it is hardly unusual for the left and its media mouthpieces to reverse their positions on an issue or a public figure pursuant to the political exigencies of the moment, their sudden portrayal of Liz Cheney as a paragon of virtue after reviling her for years has been remarkably hypocritical even by their cynical standards. Mother Jones, for example, executed a typical about-face last week. Having once advised its readers, “Liz Cheney Wants to Make Torture Great Again,” that august publication now heaps praise on the Wyoming congresswoman for excoriating her Republican colleagues in a Washington Post opinion piece.
As the sole member of the Republican leadership to support the impeachment of then-President Trump for his alleged incitement of the January 6 Capitol riot, Cheney is in bad odor with the party’s rank-and-file, has been censured by the Wyoming GOP, and may well lose her leadership position. Much of the ire directed at Cheney involves her acquiescence in the failure of House Democrats to observe due process. As an attorney and two-term congresswoman, she knew this killed any claim to legitimacy the impeachment possessed. Yet her Post column compounds her duplicitous vote by parroting Democratic talking points:
The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have.… Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people.… Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality…. History is watching. Our children are watching.
The only Democratic trope she leaves out of the column is the “Big Lie” canard, which she had already used in a tweet two days earlier: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” These aren’t the words of a conservative Republican, as Cheney styles herself in the Post. It’s difficult to imagine anything she could do that would delight the Democrats more, unless she secretly organized an editorial in a major newspaper to insinuate that Trump might attempt to use the military to overturn the election.
As it happens, just such an opinion piece appeared in the Washington Post on January 3. According to a report in the New Yorker, Cheney herself orchestrated the op-ed with assistance from her father. Titled, “All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory.” It purportedly expressed the views of former defense secretaries Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry, and Donald Rumsfeld. These luminaries professed themselves concerned about the peaceful transfer of power:
Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party. American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.
This exercise in moral posturing was ostensibly produced in response to a ridiculous report by New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman. During a White House meeting, Trump allegedly asked a question about a goofy hypothetical posed by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn about deploying the military to rerun the election. It was clear, even in Haberman’s report, that no one in the meeting seriously considered acting on this nonsense. Nonetheless, it produced predictable hysteria in the legacy media and provided Cheney with yet another pretext for betraying her party and her Wyoming constituents.
It isn’t clear what she expects to gain from all this. It’s hard to believe she’s dumb enough to take the accolades she has been receiving from the left and the media seriously. As long as they can use her against the GOP, they will continue to praise her as a profile in courage. While she is willing to repeat conspiracy theories about Donald Trump, they will say she is speaking truth to power. But when she is no longer useful to them, they will return to reviling her. Indeed, that appears to have already begun. The New York Times ran a hit piece by Frank Bruni over the weekend titled, “Is Liz Cheney a Martyr — or Just a Hack in Holy Drag?”
Bruni snarls, “No sooner had I become overwhelmed by the corpulent body of journalism about Liz Cheney as some beacon of moral clarity than I began to feel besieged by dissents about what a wretched opportunist she really is.” This is just a taste of what she’s in for. At the end of the day, she will have lost the trust of her fellow Republicans, forfeited the votes of her constituents, and the left will unceremoniously kick her into the political gutter.