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Liz Cheney earns her exile

·2 min read
Liz Cheney.
Liz Cheney. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

Nothing excites primetime cable news producers and on-air talent like the story of a Courageous Dissident Republican.

For the past two months, this slot has been filled by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney. A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't have devised a more dramatic plot: Right-wing daughter of arch-Republican former vice president turns against the head of her own party and its unified leadership, facing certain defenestration as a result, and all in the name of simple American patriotism and devotion to the Rule of Law. What could be more heroic?

Except that Cheney has amply earned her exile.

Yes, she ended up in the right place on Donald Trump's treasonous actions in the days and weeks leading up to the insurrectionary violence of Jan. 6 (after voting for him just two months earlier). But as we saw last week with her opposition to the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — which passed the House by a vote of 268-161, with 49 Republicans breaking from their party to support the bill — her views place her out of step with far more than the former president's delusional refusal to concede the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP wasn't all bad. It was fueled in part by grassroots anger against the unreflective, ineffectual hawkishness associated with the administration Cheney's father served for eight years and that maintained an unwavering grip on the party through the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump's foreign policy may have been as much of a chaotic mess as everything else associated with his administration, but at least it diverged in all kinds of ways from the sclerotic status quo that prevailed before it.

There's no clearer evidence that Cheney represents that crumbling consensus than her decision to oppose repeal of the 2002 AUMF on the grounds that it sends "a message of weakness." Never mind that the stronger 2001 AUMF remains in place, or that a constitutional republic should draw some of its strength from its refusal to grant the country's commander in chief an open-ended, decades-long permission slip to wage war without oversight. Neither matter much to Cheney because military muscle flexing is so central to how she thinks about both foreign policy and American greatness.

What the GOP needs is someone willing to stand up to Trump's imbecilic mendacity while also building on the reasonable parts of his critique of the Republican Party he deposed. Cheney will never do that, which means she has no place in the GOP of the future.

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