Liz Cheney's Profile in Courage
Plus: Is the CDC out of touch?
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
You can understand why Kevin McCarthy doesn’t want to be seen with Liz Cheney these days. The contrast would be too obvious.
I’m actually proud that I was able to write that sentence without using the word cojones, but you probably could guess that I was thinking it.
This seems a good time to recall JFK’s description of the “challenge of courage,” which included the risk of losing friends, fortune, contentment, and “even the esteem of his fellow men.”
So far, Cheney has not lost the esteem of her “fellow men,” but she knows all the other prices she might pay for sticking with her withering critque of TFG and the need to take his role in the January 6 insurrection seriously.
She has become a GOP unicorn: a solidly conservative member of the party’s current leadership, who refuses to waver, shirk, or palaver under pressure.
As a result, she is nearing the breaking point with the House GOP castrati under McCarthy, who is no longer able to hide his frustration with her principled stand.
Asked if she was still a good fit for his leadership team, McCarthy first said it’s a question for the House GOP conference. His members voted less than three months ago to keep Cheney in her leadership spot, at McCarthy’s own urging.
Then when pressed for his personal opinion on the matter, McCarthy told a room full of reporters that "if you're sitting here at a retreat that's focused on policy, focused on the future of making America next-century, and you're talking about something else, you're not being productive."
In distancing himself from Cheney, McCarthy continued to heed his Master’s Voice. On Tuesday, the disgraced, defeated, twice impeached former guy also lashed out at her.
"Liz Cheney is polling sooo low in Wyoming, and has sooo little support, even from the Wyoming Republican Party, that she is looking for a way out of her Congressional race," Trump said. "She'll either be yet another lobbyist or maybe embarrass her family by running for President, in order to save face. This warmongering fool wants to stay in the Middle East and Afghanistan for another 19 years, but doesn't consider the big picture-Russia and China!"
It probably sounded better in twitter-speak.
Back in February, I noted that it was worth remembering that Cheney is neither a RINO nor a squish. She is decisively not a Biden-Republican and isn’t making any ideological moves to win the strange new respect of progressives across the aisle or on cable tv.
As I wrote back then: Until January 6, in fact, Cheney was a loyal supporter of both Trump and his agenda. Look at this from the folks at FiveThirtyEight:
Over her career, she voted with Trump nearly 93 percent of the time. In his first two years in office she was pro-Trump on nearly 96 percent of her votes.
While she occasionally (and rarely) bucked the president on immigration and spending bills, she loyally backed his legislative agenda, including his attempts to overturn Obamacare.
But Cheney did not merely vote to support Trump’s policies, she also lined up to support Trump’s behavior. In February 2019, she voted to uphold Trump’s constitutionally questionable emergency order on funding the Mexican border wall. July, 2019, she voted against a resolution condemning Trump for his racist comments about four Democratic congresswomen.
Cheney also opposed the first effort to impeach Trump over his call to the president of Ukraine.
In other words, she was one of the GOP legislators who had signed onto the Faustian Bargain with Trump. Whatever her personal doubts, she was a hyper-loyal and reliable foot soldier.
Until she wasn’t anymore.
And then all her loyalty counted for nothing.
Her announcement that she would vote to impeach Trump was one hammer blow after another:
The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.
Everything that followed was his doing.
None of this would have happened without the President.
The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence.
He did not.
There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
This was extraordinary act of courage, not only because she was the third highest ranking member of the GOP House leadership, but because she represented a district (the at-large seat from Wyoming) that Trump had won by more than 46 points.
But while other GOPers have scurried back to win Trump’s support, Cheney continues to be rock-solid.
ICYMI: In Robert Draper’s NYT deep-dive on MAGA vs. Cheney, he captures what’s happening in the GOP:
In Cheyenne, I went to see Matt Micheli, a 45-year-old lawyer who served as Wyoming’s Republican Party chairman in 2016. “I think she views what’s happening now as a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” he told me of Cheney. “It really is a battle between the traditional Reagan-style conservative and the performative politics of the Matt Gaetz wing of the party. And if she succeeds, she’s positioned to be the leader of that post-Trump party.”
The hesitant tone in Micheli’s voice suggested that a “but” was coming. “We’ve redefined what it means to be conservative,” he continued ruefully. “I could go through issue by issue, and I guarantee you I’d be more conservative than you on every single one of them. But that doesn’t matter anymore, right? It’s all about being angry and obnoxious and demonstrating how loyal you are to Donald Trump.”
Micheli chose not to run for re-election for the party chairmanship in 2017, in part because he did not wish to pretend to be a Trump cheerleader. “What would happen if you ran for state party chair today?” I asked.
He answered immediately. “If I wouldn’t endorse the conspiracy theories that have overtaken so much of my party, which I won’t,” he said, “I’d get crushed.”
“It’s been very difficult seeing elected officials and other individuals kind of whitewash the events of that day or downplay what happened,” Fanone told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night. “Some of the terminology that was used, like ‘hugs and kisses’ and ‘very fine people,’ is very different from what I experienced and what my co-workers experienced on the 6th.”
In an emotional interview on “CNN Tonight,” Fanone described in vivid detail the terror he experienced defending the Capitol from a mob intent on stopping certification of the election, and called out elected officials who have tried to obscure that reality — a position that some GOP officials have embraced as they seek to defend Trump.
Biden’s big speech… will have a lot more spending in it. Via the Wapo:
The White House on Wednesday unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families, the latest effort by President Biden to try to turn some of his campaign promises into new policy.
Politico’s Playbook lays out some of the details of the spending plan:
Here are the highlights:
$400 billion to extend the child tax credit (That’s an estimate because a White House fact sheet conspicuously did not provide the cost)
$225 billion to subsidize and improve childcare and boost pay for childcare workers
$225 billion for a national paid family and medical leave program
$200 billion for free universal preschool
$200 billion to reduce Obamacare premiums
$109 billion for free community college
$85 billion to boost Pell Grants
$45 billion for childhood and school nutrition programs
The package would be paid for by increasing the top tax rate, hiking the capital gains tax and dramatically stepping up IRS enforcement of tax evasion.
This new spending plan, of course, is on top of Biden’s $1 trillion covid relief plan and the $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. And, you know, a trillion here, a trillion there, and before you know it, it adds up to a lot of money.
Which raises the question: Where is the Tea Party these days? (Discuss among yourselves.)
We’ll hash over Biden’s speech and his first 100 days tomorrow night on our Bulwark livestream.
“Wokeness is a problem and we all know it.” James Carville has some thoughts about the challenges facing the Democrats. In his interview with Vox’s Sean Illing, Carville makes a reference to what he calls “faculty louge” politics and Illing asks him what he means.
You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? They come up with a word like “Latinx” that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like “communities of color.” I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a “community of color.” I know lots of white and Black and brown people and they all live in ... neighborhoods.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language. This stuff is harmless in one sense, but in another sense it’s not.
We have to talk about race. We should talk about racial injustice. What I’m saying is, we need to do it without using jargon-y language that’s unrecognizable to most people — including most Black people, by the way — because it signals that you’re trying to talk around them. This “too cool for school” shit doesn’t work, and we have to stop it.
How out of touch is the CDC?
Look, I don’t want to join the pile-on here, but the CDC’s new guidelines for wearing masks outside seems…. silly.
Memo to the CDC: most vaccinated people have already made the transition.
As Philip Klein notes, “The idea that the CDC, even in loosening outdoor mask guidance, is still insisting that vaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings is completely unmoored from science or reason.”
It’s also bad marketing. The message should be: get vaccinated and get your life back. Instead, we get this:
On the other hand, we also get this:
David Axelrod @davidaxelrodMy flight from Chicago to NYC was just called back to the gate after a guy in a white supremacy tee shirt refused to wear his mask. “This is fucking America!” he shouted. But mostly he’s fucking w/the rest of US, who are following the rules and now are going to be an hour late!
1. Biden Ran on Unity. There’s Room for Improvement.
Biden is clearly gambling that putting vaccines in people’s arms and deposits in their checking accounts will be enough to transcend whatever kulturkampf the Fox News ecosystem is currently spinning up. And that may work out for him.
On the other hand, since he ran to be a national healer, there are some pitfalls he might want to avoid. Several observers I spoke to cited Biden’s race rhetoric, for example, as unhelpful. David French, a conservative who wishes Biden well, recalled that verbal excess on this subject has been a weakness for Biden. In 2012, he told an African-American audience that Republicans wanted to “put ya’ll back in chains.” His recent comment on Georgia’s election law as “Jim Crow on steroids” was ridiculous (though the Georgia law was passed for bad faith reasons and did impose some new burdens, while lightening others).
Biden is passionate about racial justice and has included a racial element in many of his proposals, including clean energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and small business loans. His heart is in the right place, but is it politically savvy?
2. Memo to Dems: Call The GOP’s “Populist” Bluff
Tim Miller has some advice for Democrats, and it starts with messaging:
1) It starts with Carville’s suggestion about branding the Biden agenda. Yes there were the $1,400 checks. But what else was in the COVID package? What are the three items in either the rescue package or the infrastructure bill that workers can grasp and know are improving their lives? Can non-political obsessives answer that question right now? I don’t think so. Democrats need to change that ASAP. Biden will have a first crack at that in tonight’s big speech.
(2) Dare the Republicans to live up to their rhetoric. Can’t get a $15 minimum wage through Manchin and Sinema? Then cut a deal that gets them on board for a smaller number. Call Cotton’s bluff on his $10 minimum wage proposal by offering a $12 or $11 compromise and watch him buckle. Do the same with Ernst, Lee, and Rubio on Paid Family Leave.
(3) Find the most tangible, popular items with working-class voters. Not bullshit pablum about economic security—we’re talking about actual benefits. Get them into legislation, get them voted on—and then relentlessly crush any Republicans who opposes them. In the case of the popular stuff that was already in the American Rescue Plan, every single R is already on the hook.
(4) Figure out how to tell this story inside the R information bubble. Yes that means ads but, if you wanna get really crazy go on Fox and talk about it. If the host badgers you about “fiscal responsibility” and “pay fors” then you’re doing the wedge thing right.
Put in a more Twitter friendly format:
Push economic agenda items that are popular with working-class voters. Watch Republicans vote against them. Beat them over the head with these votes. Ignore all the faculty lounge/Latinx bullshit. 🚀🚀🚀💎🙌