Liz Cheney sets her marker
The anti-Trump neoconservative, spared the leadership of the House, has made it clear that it wants a Republican Party civil war.
“These ideas are just as dangerous today as they were in 1940,” Rep. Liz Cheney told the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute this week, “when isolationists started the America First movement to appease Hitler.”
It wasn’t subtle.
The country’s most famous Republican, who voted for the indictment against Donald Trump last month, has almost explicitly linked America First, the foreign policy program favored by the former president (and until recently Cheney’s own party), to its ancestor of the same name . That is, the now controversial but once popular “America First” movement, which challenged US entry into World War II prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks. Conventional Hawk Republicans have been mocked by critics for seeing fresh “Munich moments” around every corner. In that regard, Cheney did not disappoint.
She played the hits.
“Weakness is provocative,” Cheney told forum chairman Roger Zakheim. America must have clear eyes if it accepts its state of emergency, she argued, and implicitly follow the democratic characterizations of the Trump years. Cheney stuck the knife further and said the GOP should not “become the party of white supremacy.”
Cheney is a top member of the House’s Republican leadership after holding her post following criticism from her hometown Republican party and a failed attempt to remove it in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, emphatically told reporters, “Yes,” it is appropriate for Trump to address the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Orlando this weekend. Cheney said, alongside McCarthy, just as emphatically, “I don’t think he should play a role in the future of the party or the country.” Channeling the high command’s concern about the party’s potentially divided future, McCarthy said, “On that high note, thank you very much.”
Cheney’s ongoing public fusillade against Trump and Trumpism is a problem for a party licking its chops to get back to power as soon as possible. Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the party’s main campaign arm in the Senate, wrote a memorandum this week addressed to “Republican voters, activists, leaders and donors” that says in the current language, “The Republican Civil War has been canceled.”
Scott, who has ambitions for the president in 2024, wrote, “These are real people. If you can cancel the President of the United States, you will have no problem canceling you and me. Today we must show our Democratic opponents that, as Mark Twain would say, the death of the Republican coalition and the American dream are being reportedly wildly exaggerated. The truth is just the opposite. The table is set for us. “But it remains to be seen how sharp the knives are on this table.
The divide in the Republican Party is perhaps best understood as being four-part.
First, there are those loyal enough to the former president who emphasize a more classic Reaganite legacy – low taxes and the like. These include former White House officials like Larry Kudlow, who returned to television on Fox News, and Brooke Rollins, a veteran of the Koch network who started a new think tank. Rollins is considering a future political run in Texas.
Second, there are those who are loyal to the president who proclaim a thirst for comeback – that is, Trump should run for 2024 and seek a rematch with Biden or whatever successor they choose. Some of the personalities who have favored this course in recent weeks include Trump favorite Rep. Matt Gaetz and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
Third, there are those (at least officially) who are not ashamed of the Trump years, but who might also advocate “Trumpism without Trump”. This faction is underrepresented in frontline politics and possibly overrepresented in intellectual circles.
Former administrative director and budget director Russ Vought has opened a new policy shop in the last few days to preserve the political gains of the Trump years as he sees them. Other groups have signed antitrust and big-tech declarations to defeat the party’s more market-oriented old guard.
Personalities like Fox’s Tucker Carlson and potential Ohio Senate candidate J. D. Vance may have taken more independent paths, but are sometimes seemingly ceaselessly attributed to Trump the man. Take Vance’s recent complaint about the former president’s deplatformation. Added to this is the cold reality that suspicions of electoral fraud are now clearly to be found in the mainstream of the party. Trump’s address this weekend in Florida to CPAC, which may officially declare a political future, is viewed as paramount by this group.
But fourth, and finally, there are those who choose to ignore Trump’s plans – their own plans are clearly extinction and restoration. Both Cheney and the Reagan Institute’s Zakheim are descendants of an ousted party elite. Cheney is of course the daughter of the former vice president. And Zakheim is the son of former Pentagon controller Dov Zakheim, who called for a tactical vote for Joe Biden last year.
The younger Zakheim introduced her and openly flattered the Wyoming representative and compared her to Margaret Thatcher. “If these last months have proven anything,” said Zakheim. “It is that Congresswoman Cheney certainly has the determination, steadfastness, and conviction of the Iron Lady of the 21st century.”
Cheney was once named as the future speaker, but in the current landscape of the house it is inconceivable today to make such a bid. Only time will tell whether political liability will simply make its goal beat faster – that is, when Cheney is filled with the ambition to seek the presidency that her father escaped.
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