Liz Cheney's ouster could signal the end of Cheney political dynasty after 5 decades as GOP embraces Trumpism
The ouster of Rep Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership on Wednesday, May 12, gives a glimpse into the direction the Republican Party is headed. It is a symbolic move as the Party of Lincoln, Reagan and Bush embraces Trumpism and implicitly declares the former president as its de-facto leader.
The action of replacing a third-ranking lawmaker in the party's congressional leadership structure, as noted by CNN's Zachary Wolf, marks a turning point in the GOP's vision. Placing the move in a historical context, there has been a Cheney — either Liz or her father Dick Cheney — at or near the helm of Republican leadership since the 1970s. However, that's no longer the case.
'She is a warmonger': Trump
After months of contentious back and forth over the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, former president Donald J Trump on Wednesday, May 12, celebrated the removal of Liz from her position as the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives. "Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party," Trump said in a statement, referring to a speech in which Liz vowed she would do everything in her power to keep him "away from the Oval Office".
The 45th POTUS also dismissed the Wyoming congresswoman as a "talking point for Democrats" and said she was a distraction from the ongoing border and economy crises. "She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our Great Military, the worst decision in our Country’s history," Trump continued. "I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!"
Liz was purged from her leadership post via voice-vote, which means there is no tally of the lawmakers who voted for or against her removal. However, sources with knowledge of the closed-door process told The Hill that it was an overwhelming vote against Liz. This was a notable shift from a similar challenge to her position in February, which she won at the time. Furthermore, it was also the first time in recent memory that a GOP lawmaker was toppled by fellow Republicans in the middle of their term through a formal vote.
Richard Bruce Cheney aka Dick Cheney
It was Liz's father Dick who laid the family's political foundations as he went on to become the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States.
Dick was an intern in former president Richard Nixon's White House and rose through the ranks before being appointed White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford. During the Ronald Reagan administration, he was made GOP conference chair — the same gig his daughter just lost — and minority whip. He then served as Secretary of Defense during the George HW Bush administration, before taking a political hiatus during Bill Clinton's eight years. Dick made a comeback as vice president under former president George W Bush and held power for eight years. It was around this time that Liz started working in the State Department on-and-off for nearly a decade.
In 2003, she took a break to join her father's re-election campaign. Five years later, she joined Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as a senior foreign policy advisor. From 2012 to 2013, she worked as a contributor for Fox News and later led a failed bid for the Senate in Wyoming. In 2016, at the end of the Obama administration, Liz became a congresswoman representing Wyoming's at-large congressional district. A year later, she became a member of the House GOP leadership.
According to Town & Country magazine's Leena Kim, much of Liz's rise through the GOP ranks, including her notoriously hawkish stance on foreign policy, mirrors that of her father Dick. Like his daughter, Dick also became the US representative for Wyoming in 1978. A teenage Liz handed out fliers and helped campaign for her father, who was re-elected five times until 1989.
Sr Cheney's downfall
Dick's meteoric rise through the ranks and growing influence over Washington, DC, was always going to be a double-edged sword. With great power comes great responsibility, but Dick soon became a reviled figure across the political aisle for exploiting federal resources at his disposal and often for personal benefit. When Dick left office, it wasn't a surprise when his approval rating stood at a staggeringly low 13 per cent, according to The Atlantic.
It's true that Bush bears the ultimate responsibility for the war in Iraq along with the lawmakers who voted for it. Journalist Conor Friedersdorf described Dick's role in the lead-up to the war as "uniquely irresponsible and mendacious".
In a 2007 article titled 'The People Vs. Dick Cheney', Wil S Hylton recounted how Dick undercut the CIA by directing subordinates to funnel raw intelligence directly to his office. Meanwhile, he also worked with former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to establish an alternative intelligence agency within the Pentagon. As Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic, both these actions "contributed to the faulty information" that led to the decision to go to war.
In 2008, Dick acknowledged that he was instrumental in adding waterboarding as an interrogation tactic during the Bush administration. What's more? It also emerged that Dick had devised an NSA operation to monitor the activities of innocent US citizens without a warrant, part of which was later known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The surveillance continued for more than two years before the DoJ deemed parts of the program illegal, according to Barton Gellman who wrote a book on Dick and gave a gist of it in a Time magazine piece.
After leaving the government, Dick allegedly used contacts he made during his tenure to enrich himself in the private sector. According to Friedersdorf, he minted more than $44M from Halliburton.
End of the Cheney dynasty?
One can argue that Liz mostly agreed with her father's bellicose foreign policy positions, and her outlook was in stark contrast to that of Trump, who advocated "bringing the troops back home" from the Middle East throughout his tenure. Trump and Liz would often clash on such issues, but the final straw came after Trump lost re-election in 2020.
Trump has maintained that the election was "stolen" from him by the Democrats, alleging widespread voter fraud and foul play in battleground states. Liz warned that Trump's claims that the election was fraudulent threatened the "fabric" of the country, and she was among 10 House Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to impeach the former president for allegedly inciting the January 6 riots at the US Capitol, which took five lives. However, Liz's decision to go against Trump resulted in her own undoing.
In January itself, a petition by members of the Freedom Caucus began circulating, calling for a special conference meeting to vote for Liz's resignation. But Liz told Politico at the time: "I'm not going anywhere. This is a vote of conscience. It's one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the Civil War, constitutional crisis."
Now, despite her ouster from GOP leadership, Liz remains determined to fight back against Trump. “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that,” Liz said in a floor speech on Tuesday, May 11. “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Trump is expected to throw his support behind a primary challenger to Liz in the 2022 midterm elections. Meanwhile, Liz has pledged to continue speaking out against the former commander-in-chief.