Fresh from being stripped of her leadership position in the House of Representatives, Liz Cheney (R-WY) appeared on Fox News on May 13. During her short interview with the network’s Bret Baier, it quickly became apparent that the congresswoman is so determined to disparage former President Donald Trump at every opportunity that, at times, one would have thought Baier was interviewing Hillary Clinton.
Though the exchange was not entirely focused on Trump, Cheney crafted almost all of her answers to the host’s questions in such a way that enabled a segue back to the 45th president. It certainly seems as if Cheney believes she is onto a winning strategy by going after Trump whenever she can. In itself, that belief is, in all likelihood, remarkably out of synch with the prevailing sentiments of Republican voters, among whom Trump remains enormously popular.
Cheney the Martyr
So convinced, apparently, is Cheney that she can set herself up as the martyr of anti-Trumpers, that at one point she attempted to pick a fight with Fox News itself, suggesting that the network had a special duty to dispel the idea that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. “I would say Fox News especially – especially Fox News – has a particular obligation to make sure people know the election wasn’t stolen,” Cheney said, before talking over the host when he attempted to point out that the network has, for the most part, refused to indulge allegations that the counting of 2020 ballots was rigged in Joe Biden’s favor.
It was an extraordinary peek into Cheney’s clearly pre-planned strategy to portray herself as the brave, lone crusader against the lies of the former president. This part of the interview also perhaps betrayed a belief on Cheney’s part that the media should be harangued for not following the political regime’s approved messaging. It is not – or should not be – the media’s job to indoctrinate their audiences to believe anything but to present them with all the information so that they may decide what they believe. In her hectoring of Baier over the 2020 election, Cheney displayed a disturbingly authoritarian bent.
Again and again, she repeated the phrase “the rule of law,” implying that Trump was somehow operating outside the law by claiming that the 2020 result was not legitimate. Such was the importance she placed upon the issue that one wonders why Cheney is not known for directing a word of criticism at those Democrats who, in the wake of Clinton’s 2016 defeat, constantly claimed that Trump had stolen the election.
The representative even went so far as to make an accusation about Mr. Trump’s admittedly provocative tone as president: “I think we know that the kinds of language we’ve heard from him has caused violence in the past,” she claimed.
A Dangerous Distraction?
Pundits and strategists have suggested that the ongoing Trump-Cheney feud distracts from the Republican Party’s first duty: to reign in the agenda of the Biden administration and attempt to reclaim power on Capitol Hill in 2022. While that is a sound observation, it is Cheney herself who seems to be doing all she can to keep this feud front and center – hence, her dismissal as chair of the House Republican Conference.
The Wyoming congresswoman may not survive the 2022 midterms but, if she does, her party could face a difficult situation in 2024. Should Trump run for the White House again and secure the nomination, Cheney’s words will come back to haunt both herself and the GOP as a whole. To Baier, she repeated her earlier pledge to do everything in her power to prevent Trump from returning to the Oval Office. Where will she stand, then, if the 45th president is campaigning to become the 47th?
Read more from Graham J. Noble.