Cheney Chess

May 10, 2021

It’s poetic justice that Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney who concocted a Big Lie that caused the war in Iraq, is being booted out of the Republican Party’s leadership for attacking Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

She’s now doing battle with pro-Trump believers in her party and is considered, by the media, as a courageous truthteller. But not by some Republicans who have had differences with Trump themselves.

“I think the Cheneys are unrepentant warmongers. They still won’t admit that the Iraq War was a mistake,” said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, libertarian-Republican in December. "America needs to quit listening to them. They need to fade into obscurity.”

His harsh opinion is contrary to the current narrative which is that Cheney is a moderate battling radicalized forces. But she is no moderate. Her decision to vote for Trump’s impeachment in January — and to label his electoral falsehoods as “poison” to democracy — was needed, but is also the first move in a “long” game by her, and Republican establishment types, to take back the Party.

Ironically, Liz Cheney’s replacement as Chair of the Party Conference in the House will be Elise Stefanik of New York, who has voted with Trump 78 percent of the time while Cheney voted with him 93 percent of the time. The difference between the two is that Stefanik spouts Trump’s Big Lie whenever she can, unlike Cheney who didn’t and went further. She helped organize a Washington Post op-ed on January 3, signed by ten living former defense secretaries including her father, warning against any military intervention — a declaration designed to prevent interference in the constitutional handover of power to Joseph Biden.

Three days later, Trump tried anyway by inciting the insurrection to stop the transfer of power. He was promptly impeached. Then Cheney and another nine Republicans voted to impeach. Former President George W. Bush also spoke out against Trump’s actions, and Cheney was celebrated for speaking truth to power. In May, she was invited to attend Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address and the two fist-bumped.

This conflict benefits Cheney. As Trump and his radical toadies pile on, she is cast as a victim and her Republican rivals as weaklings and crazies. For instance, a column entitled “House of Cowards” written by Republican pundit, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, posited: “Whoever replaces Ms. Cheney will be elevated by a Conference that booted a woman for telling the truth but has expressed little criticism for, say, Rep. Matt Gaetz, reportedly being investigated by federal agents to determine whether he had sex with a minor (he’s denied it).”

Noonan, along with an army of liberal columnists, was a cheerleader for Dick Cheney’s Iraq War, as were the venerable editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post.

Liz Cheney is no heroine. She is Republican Royalty and an extreme right-winger whose attacks on people of color, gay marriage, abortion, immigrants, Muslims, and progressives have matched Trump’s. She also enthusiastically endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020 as President. Then, after he persisted with his electoral fabrication, she made her move.

Now what we have is Team Cheney all over again: Bellicose and critical of withdrawing from Afghanistan or of any cuts in the Pentagon’s bloated budget. She also opposed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with its modest reforms, gun controls, and was against the American Rescue Plan as a “dangerous” package of “far-left priorities” that provided “checks for illegal immigrants, criminals, and even terrorists.”

Coincidentally, Biden’s American Rescue Plan cost exactly as much as did Dick Cheney’s war in Iraq did — or $1.9 trillion.

Most would agree that Donald Trump’s Big Lie is despicable, but Dick Cheney’s was a ruinous whopper and became the pretext to invade Iraq based on intelligence reports that its leader Saddam Hussein was about to unleash weapons of mass destruction with Al Qaeda against America and the West. It was pure deception.

The prevarication was taken all the way to the UN Security Council in 2003 by Bush’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He spoke passionately about the hazards, outlining evidence such as Iraqi uranium purchases in Africa and meetings with Al Qaeda officials. For effect, he held up a vial of anthrax and showed slides of mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq capable of wreaking havoc on the world.

Weeks later, the invasion took place followed by a lengthy occupation that killed about 4,400 Americans, wounded thousands more plus murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The war spilled out into other regions, lasted for years, and triggered a knock-on effect that has led to the destruction of Syria, the upheaval of the Middle East, and the displacement of millions of Syrians.

No weapons of mass destruction were ever found because none existed. The computer-generated slides showing mobile bio-labs were created by Rafid Ahmed Alwan whose nickname in intelligence services was “curveball”. His allegations, and bogus claims of uranium stockpiling, were questioned by German and British intelligence agencies at the time but dismissed by Cheney and the Pentagon. President Bush trusted them, constituting a monumental lapse in judgment.

By May 2004, just after the invasion was completed, The New York Times issued a mea culpa, admitting it had been misled about the existence of weapons. Twelve years later, Colin Powell wrote his memoirs and described his 2003 speech to the United Nations as a “blot” on his record.

A blot? A blot is a smudge. A blot is forgetting to say “please”. A blot is not hundreds of thousands of people dying, trillions in costs, and an ongoing catastrophe in the Middle East. A blot is not a cataclysmic, monumentally stupid, and needless war which was undertaken by people who didn’t double-check “ginned-up” intel from war-mongering spooks, led by a Vice President who still had stock options in Haliburton Company, that “won” a no-bid contract worth $7 billion from the Pentagon, to provide services to the war effort.

Frankly, Bush and Cheney should have been impeached when the weapons were not found. It was their monumental mess, combined with the economic collapse in 2008, that cost Republicans the White House for two terms. It was their war, ironically, that gave Trump the ammo to assail and take over the Republican establishment in 2016. At a rally in Iowa, he resonated with many Americans and overtook establishment candidates like Jeb Bush, when he said of Iraq: “How could we have been so stupid? One of the worst decisions in the history of the country.”

Unfortunately, Trump proved to be more duplicitous and stupid than the previous Republican bunch and learned how to play footsie with the establishment along the way. He cut taxes for their donor base and even granted a second, more comprehensive pardon to Dick Cheney’s trusted sidekick, Scooter Libby, who took the fall for promoting the Iraq war to the press. But now he’s struck back by kicking Liz Cheney back to the “back benches” of the House Republicans.

However, don’t cry for Liz. She has time on her side and a mighty network of backers. She will muster a considerable war chest to help win re-election in 2022 for herself and others. The Cheney brand has been burnished and she is no longer the daughter of the guy behind the Big Lie, but she is a warrior against Trump’s Big Lie. She is the self-proclaimed constitutional conscience of the Grand Old Party, and a woman courageously taking on the good ole boys.

Her timing couldn’t be more propitious: She will gain sympathy and audience as her opinion will be sought in print and television while 400 federal cases against the January 6 crazies and litigation against Trump, Gaetz, Giuliani, and Fox  TV roll out in coming months. She will also serve as a spokesperson for the nine anti-Trump Republicans as well as for other Republicans who want to tap into the corporate donor largesse that her establishment Republican fanboys, like Daddy Dick, commandeer.

If her gamble pays off, her anti-Trump rump caucus may grow and end up being strategically essential to getting things passed, a role similar to that played by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in the Senate. For her part, Liz Cheney dubs this moment as a “turning point” for the Party. But to me, it’s business as usual. After all, her proposed successor, Stefanik, demonstrates the longstanding Republican aptitude of kowtowing to corporate donors and of spreading falsehoods.

So it’s not a turning point. It’s more like a baton-passing contest between one set of right-wing and deluded partisans to another.

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