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Liz Cheney deserves credit for defying Trump. But she's still a political disaster.

To buck your party and draw the wrath of the MAGA crowd isn’t easy. But it has its rewards. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., had already lost her leadership position in the House, been kicked out of her state’s Republican Party and forced to pay thousands of dollars for extra security in the face of growing death threats before suffering a wipeout in Wyoming’s Republican primary Tuesday night. But all that pales in comparison to the positive exposure she’s received — and the vistas it opens up. 

If you look at her record, it’s clear that Cheney is Trump without the lying, bullying and immorality.

Cheney’s quixotic campaign to retain her House seat in deep-red Wyoming now has made her something bigger: the face of a movement against former president Donald Trump and Trumpism that transcends political party. In her final campaign ad, she barely mentioned her home state. She couched her run to keep her seat as a battle against Trump and his big lie, calling his denial of the 2020 election results “a cancer that threatens our great republic.”

And she urged “Republicans, Democrats, independents” to join her in this “great task … No matter how long we must fight, this is a battle we will win.” Her popularity drew out-of-state donations in the millions. Many Democrats seem to be fans. Christina Harvey, head of the progressive group Stand Up America, told The Guardian that when her members were surveyed about politicians that they admired, Cheney’s name frequently came up. 

Cheney’s already being asked about her plans to run for president in 2024 — and she told NBC’s “TODAY” show on Wednesday morning that she is “thinking about” the prospect. I would bet that there are political strategists right now figuring her odds of ultimately become the first woman president, a Hillary Clinton-esque figure but more iconic, younger, plain-spoken, a patriotic mother of five without the baggage of a philandering spouse and with a compelling backstory that includes having a grandmother who was the only female deputy sheriff in Casper, Wyoming. 

She’s become the face of the West, evoking all kinds of metaphors — a courageous cowgirl or an order-loving Johanna Wayne. It’s hard not to get swept up in the iconography of a lone woman standing up to Trump and his legions of supporters, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. A woman willing to get trounced at the polls for a greater good. 

But if you look at her record, it’s clear that Cheney is Trump without the lying, bullying and immorality. When Trump was president, Cheney’s votes in Congress aligned with his positions nearly 93% of the time.

The media was so fixated on Trump’s behavior as president that his policies often didn’t get the attention they deserved. He gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy, walked the U.S. away from confronting global warming, rolled back scores of environmental rules and did all he could to curb immigration.

Unfortunately, Cheney’s agreement with Trump’s positions has not broken through. And since the American public has short memory and even shorter attention span, the media adulation is a problem.

And there’s been a lot of it from smitten opinion writers. “Nonetheless Liz Cheney persisted,” a Daily Beast writer proclaimed, using a rallying cry for progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. A Bloomberg article predicted that her “martyrdom” would ultimately reshape the Republican Party. A Washington Post columnist compared her to Obi-Wan Kenobi warring against Trump’s Darth Vader.

But what is her actual record? Her bio proclaims her staunch support for “pursuing conservative solutions to create jobs, cut taxes and regulation, and expand America’s energy, mining and agriculture industries.”

She’s anti-abortion, pro-gun and approves of waterboarding. She opposed the Violence Against Women Act, although 29 House Republicans broke with their party to support it. She’s been a longtime foe of the Affordable Care Act, voting for Trump’s plan to dismantle it. She is a hardliner on immigration.

Last March, Cheney stopped short of blaming fossil fuels for climate change, claiming that there are “real questions about why and what’s causing it.” In 2019, she used typically outlandish right-wing talking points to lambaste House Democrats for becoming “the party of anti-Semitism, the party of infanticide, the party of Socialism.” 

Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham, an exception to the media cheerleaders, called out this so-called champion of democracy for failing to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would protect the rights of all Americans to cast their votes and have them counted. 

And she remains close to her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. They even wrote a book together, marinated in militarism. Long after it was discredited, the two Cheneys continued to defend the Iraq War despite its huge cost in blood and treasure and the fact that the elder Cheney’s claims of weapons of mass destruction proved to be unfounded.

Let’s not forget that Cheney also came relatively late to the anti-Trump party. She supported Trump in 2016 and defended him after the revelation of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about assaulting women. While calling Trump’s comments appalling, she insisted that “Hillary’s actions have been far worse.” 

Let’s not forget that Cheney also came relatively late to the anti-Trump party. She supported Trump in 2016 and defended him after the revelation of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Not so long ago, Cheney was helping raise funds for Trump’s re-election and voting against impeaching him over his dealings with Ukraine (though she did join nine other House Republicans in voting to impeach Trump over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol). 

Is this really the person we want running the country? No progress on women’s rights, climate change or protecting public health and safety for at least four years. More tax cuts and no increase in the minimum wage. 

I’m not denying Cheney’s courage in standing up to Trump, nor the crucial star power she brings to the Jan. 6 hearings. She’s been that rara avis, a Republican lawmaker with both a conscience and a backbone — solemnly warning her cowardly colleagues: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

I admire her loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and her efforts to reform her party. But I won’t be blinded by her light.

By all means, give the woman the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Just don’t give her the keys to the White House.

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