In the latest of countless reasons why we’re wise to be skeptical about what we accept as factual news stories nowadays, and to be judicious consumers when it comes to determining in which media outlets we invest our time and money, we’re now being asked to believe that Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is being run out of town on a rail by rabid Trumpian Republicans all because she dared to criticize the former president’s claims that the election was stolen.
She is being targeted by Republicans because she “she won’t stay quiet about Donald J. Trump’s election lies,” wrote The New York Times.
CNN explained that her “repeated rebuttals of former President Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him has put her in a precarious position within the Republican Party” with Republicans.
And ABC News reported that Cheney, “a vocal opponent of former President Trump’s claims there was widespread fraud in the election, is under fire from her own GOP leadership team.”
The strategy is simple: Associate the Republican Party with the widely reprehended notion that Trump really won in a landslide but his votes were thrown into the garbage while truckloads of phony Biden ballots were smuggled in late at night, and voters are sure to dismiss them as loons and keep the Democrats in power in 2022 and beyond.
Except that’s not the case. There’s a whole lot of middle ground between Trump’s stolen election theory and Cheney’s worldview.
The problem many Republicans have with Cheney stems not from her views on the election’s legitimacy, but rather from her vote to impeach Trump because, as she put it, he “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” referring to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.
I’ve consistently condemned that invasion as arguably the most embarrassing day in American history.
Not the most devastating — that distinction can be shared by the invasion of Washington in 1814, Pearl Harbor in 1841 and 9/11 — but those raiders were not Americans.
Perhaps nothing else frustrated the good work Trump accomplished as president more than the optics of treasonous trespassers storming the hallowed halls of our revered Capitol building holding Trump flags, as if they represent the distinguished, respectful and law-abiding overwhelming majority of 74 million Trump supporters.
I strongly criticized Trump for an initial lukewarm response to the invasion. But as there was never any rational basis for impeachment, it is clearly justifiable that Republicans turned on Cheney for her lack of sound judgment; Trump’s stolen election argument is irrelevant.
In hindsight, it’s easy to envision how Trump could have handled his post-election behavior in a more dignified, statesmanlike manner, letting go of ballot-dumping conspiracy theories that Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and The Wall Street Journal editorial board, among countless other right-of-center commentators, long abandoned, without relenting from his justifiable condemnation of renegade state executives making unconstitutional eleventh-hour procedural changes that disproportionately benefitted Democratic voters, not only without their respective legislatures’ approvals but often despite their vehement objections.
Nonetheless, calling an election “rigged” is not likely to incite imminent violence — which is the legal standard for the rare instance when free speech may be curbed — even if it is theoretically possible.
After all, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan because he thought that would impress actress Jodie Foster, based on her character in “Taxi Driver,” but that film’s creators, producers and directors weren’t held liable for Hinckley’s actions. Thankfully, but not surprisingly; our country was far saner back in 1981.
If media lackeys possessed the integrity, moral clarity and professional pride to tell the story accurately, readers would be in a better position to understand that there are many other points of view besides 1) the election was stolen, or 2) Trump incited an insurrection.
Here’s a different theory about what motivates Cheney: Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, is essentially the poster child of the military-industrial complex.
In one fell swoop, every bit as effectively as President Reagan dismantled New Deal and Great Society big government thinking, President Trump convinced the vast majority of Republican voters that endless foreign entanglements shouldn’t be a way of life. That surely didn’t go over well in the Cheney household.
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