Liz Cheney (R-Wy) is on her way out, meanwhile, she sure she is on her way in. Something entertainingly out of touch about that, innately American, innately Cheney, never say never even when your constituents say “never” – by 35 points. She is now “pondering a White House run.” The funny thing is that Liz Cheney’s primary loss tells us far more than most realize, about raw ambition.
Yes, most on the left shake their head, sure her defeat makes a sad day for Republicans, arguing her defeat reveals her constituents just do not get it, do not understand rioters in buffalo suits nearly took down America, or somehow unforgivably forgive Trump because his policies are better for America than anything Democrats are doing.
Well maybe, but other lessons come from this defeat, and they are worth pondering – as Liz ponders her White House run. Think about what we just saw, and then think about what it means.
What Liz Cheney’s short career illustrates is that you can spin hay to gold for a time, but then people want to know what is going on. She began spinning some time ago, no doubt a student of an illustrious, occasionally imperious father and her scholarly mother.
Her mother, Lynne Cheney, is a sage, serious author if a bit self-possessed. One of her best quotes is “dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” Makes one wonder why Americans were so upset about 2020 election procedures, why so many are today upset with Biden, and why so many of her daughter’s constituents voted against her: Dogs, after all, don’t bark at parked cars.
Her father, however, takes the prize. As Liz Cheney tried to frame her political ambitions as pure principle, utterly selfless, all about duty, her constituents – who know her best – began to doubt, first in small numbers, then large. What they suspected was gold spun from hay is not gold.
So, what did the ambitious Congresswoman from Wyoming do? She called in The Cavalry, her famous father, former Secretary of Defense (who had to be convinced not to use tactical nuclear weapons), and former Vice President (who when asked to vet candidates, selected himself).
What did Dick Cheney, the taciturn wit do? He cut a scathing ad for his daughter, complete with cowboy hat. He said, “There has never been a greater threat to our republic” than Donald Trump, then turned up the heat, calling Trump a “coward.” Forget the British, Germans, Soviets, Chinese, al Qaida, ISIS, and Hezbollah. Forget the Battle of Fort McHenry, Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Normandy, and Battle of the Bulge, the threat to watch is Donald Trump.
But the rich part is watching Dick Cheney, who copped five draft deferments to avoid military service in the 1960s, call Trump a “coward.” Asked about those deferments in 2004 – because he was a student and his wife was pregnant (with Liz), he said, “I had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.”
Indeed. How convenient “other priorities” are when the alternative is dying in a Vietnamese jungle. Cheney did not avoid the draft once, but five times after being classified “1-A,” “available for service.”
So, a man who avoided the draft five times, who never wore a uniform, who was talked off the ledge – dissuaded by Colin Powell from using nukes, who sent 2,448 young Americans to their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks Trump a “coward.”
Well, okay, but here is the thing. While Trump received deferments, Cheney also pushed combat over diplomacy, pushed America into two extended wars, which cost eight trillion dollars and 900,000 lives.
Is Trump without casualties? No, we lost 60 soldiers in Afghanistan during Trump’s four years. Ironically, the administration that pulled us out of Afghanistan left 100,000 US allies behind and killed 13 service members in their bumbling.
The unspoken part of Liz Cheney and her ambitious gamble, building a future on trashing Trump, is that Washington DC is now a “zero sum game.” That is, when Republicans turn on Republicans, Democrats gain; when Democrats turn on Democrats, Republicans gain.
This is not healthy, not how life used to be, not good for a Republic, and not what people – most people, including Wyoming – want in their leaders. People are tired of seeing self-interest lead, tired of seeing the grubby underside of politics. They want better.
What are the top lessons from Cheney’s defeat? Putting aside the national brouhaha over Trump, the real lessons are – people don’t like demagogues, grandstanders, and self-righteous politicians, those who consider themselves unrivaled paragons of virtue.
People want authenticity, more humility, and policies that will help them pay bills, help their kids learn real stuff, help their neighbors survive – not endless hand wringing, bell clanging, or shouting from rooftops about what other politicians do wrong.
As Liz Cheney “ponders a White House run,” and her father calls Trump’s kettle black, most Americans will look at her 35-point loss – and shrug. We know the facts, see the reality, and have no interest in chasing parked cars. From where most sit, Cheney’s car looks parked.
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