I’m no fan of Liz Cheney, but she has earned my respect
The U.S. House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection held a prime-time public hearing on June 9 that was viewed by an audience of 20 million. Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, played a key role in laying out the facts.
Rather than offering her own partisan views and speculations, Cheney relied exclusively on the words of members of the Trump team and family and those who directly experienced the insurrection as evidence for her claims. Her discourse sounded like that of a prosecutor, previewing the case against Trump that would be made in upcoming hearings.
History, in my opinion, will recall that Cheney, unlike most of her Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, did the right thing — that principle and morality, not political gamesmanship, motivated her behavior. Cheney rhetorically indicted the overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress who continue to remain silent because of their fealty to and fear of the former president. Her indictment was pointed and profound.
Make no mistake: Cheney had the courage of her convictions.
She wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak. Cheney was not influenced by the political reality that in Wyoming she lags behind her Trump-supported opponent in the polls by as much as 30 points. Her love of our country’s democratic republic trumped (no pun intended) political ambition. Sadly, the same cannot be said about most of Cheney’s colleagues.
To be clear, I disagree with Cheney on most issues, including Supreme Court appointments, gun control policies and plans to address current economic problems; ironically, she voted 90 percent of the time with Trump. Nevertheless, at least for today, I am Cheney’s fan and cheerleader. Despite what her detractors are saying, Cheney spoke as an American and not as a politician. It would be hard to refute that.
Why is Cheney’s behavior so remarkable and important? Because saving our Constitutional democracy and the rule of law is far more important than any other matter facing the nation. Problems like inflation are temporary, ephemeral and transitory even though painful in the moment; history documents that these problems always abate. By contrast, however, once democracy is lost, it is lost — and the consequences last forever, hurting all of us more than rising gas and food prices.
Perhaps most noteworthy was Cheney’s withering message to her fellow Republicans. It was rhetorically powerful and no doubt will be remembered for a long time: “Tonight, I say this to our Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Richard Cherwitz is Ernest S. Sharpe Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Moody College of Communication’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing at University of Texas, Austin, and a founding director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium, a nationally-acclaimed cross-disciplinary initiative designed to leverage knowledge for social good by educating “citizen-scholars.”
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