Other than opposing Joe Biden, what do national Republicans stand for?
It’s supposed to be:
- Lower taxes, the one glue that has held the party together for more than 40 years. There is universal opposition to Democrats’ proposals to boost taxes on upper income Americans.
- A smaller federal government, rein in spending. Despite the contradictions — the national debt rose by more than $7.7 trillion during the Donald Trump years — this is a staple of GOP orthodoxy.
- Conservative on social issues, pro-life, anti-gun control, the self-styled party of “family values.”
- A robust national defense.
- Less consensus on foreign policy with an exception: strong support for Israel.
One Republican who checks all these boxes is Liz Cheney, the congresswoman from Wyoming.
But she’s a pariah to many conservative activists for one reason: She stood up to — and is demanding accountability from — Trump for spreading lies that the 2020 election was fraudulent and for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, when a Trump-inspired mob violently attacked the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn an honest election.
“Liz has become the Antichrist because she took on the ‘dear leader’ who’s down there ranting in Mar-a-Lago,” says former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson. “That’s her only sin.”
Consider the 63 conservatives who signed a petition calling for Cheney’s removal from the House Republican Conference; most oppose her reelection.
Some are fringe figures such as Jenna Ellis, one of Trump’s losing lawyers, and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
But many represent organizations very influential in right-wing GOP circles. The Club for Growth favors sweeping tax cuts, less spending and deregulation. Consistent with her entire record in Congress, Cheney is critical of the Biden administration’s policies, citing a need to “stop reckless spending, cut regulation and cut taxes.”
Yet the Club for Growth is running ads in Wyoming blasting Cheney as a “Hillary Clinton Republican.” Three times I asked David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, about this absurd charge; three times there was no answer.
Several of the anti-Cheney petition signers represent “family values,” anti-abortion groups. Cheney talks of a “moral obligation to do everything to protect the sanctity of life.” She gets an A-plus from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony scorecard. The Wyoming lawmaker has five children and one spouse, one-third as many as the Mar-a-Lago-based patron saint of these “family values” champions.
When asked about this hypocrisy over the phone, Gary Bauer, the president of American Values who once sought the Republican presidential nomination, seemed to squirm. Bauer, whom Trump tapped to the unpaid U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and who says he was a frequent visitor to the White House during that administration, said that “Cheney is trying to blow up the Republican party” and then shifted and said it’s really about her animosity to populist anti-globalism. Come on, Gary.
The other big issue for Bauer and many on the religious right is support for Israel. On this score, it’s hard to top Cheney, who exclaims, “America must be clear and lead the world in support of our ally and friend,” Israel.
She’s also a big gun rights advocate, getting an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Yet Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, signed the anti-Cheney petition. Why? Again, no answer.
Then there’s her colleagues from Wyoming, supposedly the land of straight-shooting, stand-up cowboys and cowgirls. The state has two sit-down Republican senators.
Cynthia Lummis refuses to say who she’s for, but Trump, whom she lavishly praises, says she’s for his anti-Cheney primary candidate, Harriet Hageman. After first indicating they’d get me a more definitive response, Lummis’s office then said she’d stick with her statement that she has known Hageman for decades and considers her “a dedicated supporter of our Wyoming way of life, a defender of our state’s values and a friend.”
John Barrasso, the senior senator from Wyoming, who specializes in dodging and evading direct questions, is even more slippery. Early last year he endorsed Cheney. Apparently, he got some heat — and now, as one Wyoming pundit noted, Barrasso “is perfectly willing to throw Cheney under the bus, but isn’t interested in expending that much energy.”
Maybe it’s just the state has gone loony. The GOP chairman is — or was — a member the Oath Keepers, an extremist paramilitary group that led the Jan. 6 violent assault on the Capitol. (While he was in Washington and attended the Trump rally, he didn’t participate in the insurrection.)
As I’m charging these self-proclaimed principled conservatives with hypocrisy, an acknowledgement: I disagree with Liz Cheney on most all of these issues; she no doubt considers me a hopeless leftie. But I admire her character and her courage.
Those traits now are apparently irrelevant to the Club for Growth, the “family values” crowd and Wyoming’s two senators.