Another Eve of Destruction

It was a sixties thing. In 1965 it was Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction – perhaps the most pretentious protest song from those odd days. It was not-very-convincing imitation Bob Dylan. McGuire offered it to The Byrds. They said no, pretentious posturing just isn’t cool, so McGuire recorded it for Dunhill himself and somehow made a big hit out of it – the world is coming to an end because our leaders are fools, and everyone is blind, and we’re all going to die, and there’s not a damned thing anyone can do about it.

Yeah, yeah, there’s no hope – the lyrics were apocalyptic – but there was a lot of money to be made there. People were in a bad mood and liked the message. Everyone was lying. Only the singer (and anyone who bought the record) could see how oblivious everyone else was, even if everything McGuire listed was actually rather obvious and serious people had been working on those putative “issues” all along. But it was a hit.

A few months later, in response, that Green Beret medic, Sergeant Barry Sadler, released his hyper-patriotic Ballad of the Green Berets – and more followed. That was the answer. America, love it or leave it. Curiously, years later, after Barry McGuire suddenly got all evangelical and born again, he refused to perform his one big hit song from long ago. He had changed his mind. Jesus will fix everything. There’s no need to worry. There never was. Sorry about that.

The sixties had ended. Only aging baby boomers remember those songs, and those times, but those times are back. Anyone could have seen that back in March 2016:

Donald Trump will tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the Republican presidential nomination, but he suggested it could happen anyway.

ABC News host George Stephanopoulos had to ask three times to get Trump to say he’d tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the nomination at the Republican National Convention this summer.

“I would certainly tell them that, but, you know, look, these people are – are fervent,” Trump said.

“I don’t want to see riots. I don’t want to see problems,” Trump continued. “But, you know, you have – you have millions of people who we’re talking about, George, millions of additional people have gone. You know, I’ve gotten more than 2 million votes more than anybody else, 2 million votes, more than anybody else.”

Trump first said there could be riots if someone else gets the nomination last week. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”

That finally happened on January 6, 2021 – he lost reelection and told his people to go stop Congress from formally certifying the vote, and they tried. Things got out of hand, or went just as planned. Donald Trump got his riot, which some called an insurrection. The vote had to be wrong. He had to have won. He did win, damn it! He’d been robbed!

So, really, everything had been rigged. Elections just don’t work anymore. Overthrow them – an insurrection. Is that too radical? Okay, then either change how elections are done or establish a way for “the right people” to reverse what seems to be a stupid result. Now, in Georgia, and soon in many other states, the new law is that the state legislature can toss out results that just don’t make sense to them – which makes the popular vote advisory – just a suggestion. So, if Trump runs again in 2024, and loses badly, in key states, with Republican state legislatures, they can look at their state’s results and say that what they see just doesn’t make sense. The vote had to be wrong. Trump had to have won. Then they say that he did win, because now they can do that. And that’s the end of our democracy. This is the actual eve of destruction.

Tom Friedman thinks so. It’s House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney from their leadership for calling out Donald Trump:

This is a big moment in American history.

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections – the core engine of our democracy – a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

This could be the end:

In effect, the Trump GOP has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial – and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable – that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end…

That’s when those people will have shut down and shut out Liz Cheney, as they change all the rules at state-level:

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”

And then it’s really over:

You tell me how American democracy will ever be the same again and how these people can be trusted to cede power the next time they win the White House.

And while you’re at it, tell me how America can ever again be a credible observer and upholder of democratic elections around the world – so vital to our national security and the hopes and dreams of democrats in all these countries who look to America as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. The next time we want to question election results in Russia or Iran or Poland or Hungary, what do you suppose their elected autocrats will say?

They’ll say: “Listen to you? Your Republican Party turned a blind eye to a guy who told the biggest election lie in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy. And it wasn’t even in the service of some urgent, compelling policy. It was just so he could stay in power, salve his ego and deny he lost.”

And that leaves this:

If Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America. And when that happens, both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.

I don’t use that term lightly or accidentally. We are all the product of our life experiences, and my first reporting experience was living inside the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I saw close up what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations – so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story. And they think that they can do it endlessly – cheat just one more time, break one more rule, buy one more vote – and the system will hold until they can take it over and own it for their own purposes.

Then one day – and you never see it coming – the whole system breaks down. Whatever frayed bonds of truth and trust that were holding it together completely unravel.

And then it’s gone. And there is no getting it back.

Expect a new civil war. Friedman sounds like the young Barry McGuire of long ago. This is the eve of destruction, and on the actual eve of the vote to shut down and shut out Liz Cheney, she herself sounded the alarm:

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming delivered a defiant last stand hours before facing a vote to purge her from House Republican leadership for her outspoken repudiation of former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies, declaring Tuesday night on the House floor that she would not sit back quietly as her party aided Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine democracy.

Ms. Cheney, who is facing a vote Wednesday morning that is almost certain to succeed in ousting her from House Republicans’ No. 3 post, declared on Tuesday that the nation was facing a “never seen before” threat in a former president who provoked the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and who “has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him.”

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Ms. Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

She’s fine with giving up her career for that, which at this point isn’t giving up much at all:

She has cast her almost certain expulsion from the leadership ranks as a “turning point” for her party and told allies that the leadership post is simply not worth having if it requires her to lie.

Rather than fighting to hold onto her post, Ms. Cheney has embraced her downfall, offering herself as a cautionary tale in what she is portraying as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Emphasizing that framing Tuesday night, Ms. Cheney wore a replica pin of George Washington’s battle flag as she spoke on the House floor.

That’s rubbing it in, but it seems she’s serious:

Ms. Cheney invoked the parallels between what unfolded at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and her work in authoritarian countries to explain why she was so determined to publicly condemn the attempted insurrection.

“Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution,” Ms. Cheney said. “Our duty is clear. Every one of us, who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.”

Colby Hall notes the other side of this argument:

While the Republican party grapples with an existential battle between the truth and following a leader prone to clear exaggerations and lies, former President Donald Trump reiterated false claims that he won the 2020 election, but with a level of weirdness that makes it hard to ignore.

Since his deplatforming from nearly all of social media, Trump has relied on sending statements from his Save America PAC or his Office of the 45th President desk. Much of these statements lack anything new or newsy and are often ignored. But in this instance, the analogy was so weird and at a new level of desperation that it seemed fitting.

Trump opens by baselessly calling out a “major” fraud case in the Michigan Election (which has long been certified) before comparing the 2020 Election results to a jewelry heist. Really.

“If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned,” Trump states, which seems a fairly clear suggestion that he believes that he should return to the White House.

What? Yes, stolen diamonds:

That’s where the GOP finds itself. With a leader who lost an election but is falsely claiming the White House should be returned to him like stolen diamonds, and a conservative Congresswoman who has become a pariah for calling out the flat weirdness and lies of the party leader.

But he’s not the only weird one:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC) has made it clear over the past week he wants the GOP to embrace Donald Trump as its leader and thinks the party can’t move forward without him.

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum spoke with Graham Tuesday and asked him about Senator Joni Ernst (R- IA) deeming the House GOP vote to oust Liz Cheney as “cancel culture.”

Graham took issue with that and said, “You’re not entitled to be a leader. You have to earn that right. And if people don’t think you’re leading them well, they can fire you.”

He said Cheney lost the confidence of House Republicans because “she’s trying to make the argument that the Republican party is better off without Donald Trump, that he’s disqualified from being a member of the Republican party, that he should never be allowed to pursue office again.”

And most Republicans, he added, disagree with that.

Trump is the future for them all? Trump is the future for America? That’s an odd notion but that’s the one big idea here:

Graham insisted that “Trump plus” is the future for the GOP, and getting rid of him would only hurt the party:

“If you try to drive him out of the Republican party, half the people will leave. It doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the president. It means the Republican Party cannot go forward without President Trump being part of it.”

If so, the party is in real trouble, and Kevin Drum identifies that trouble:

Why has the Republican Party’s leadership caved in to Donald Trump and his insistence that the 2020 election was stolen from him? Is it because they’re afraid of Trump’s base? Because they’ve gone stone cold nuts? Or what?

It turns out, apparently, that the answer is none of the above. If the latest scuttlebutt and blind quotes are to be believed, they’ve caved in to Trump thanks to ordinary old-school extortion. In particular, they believe that if they oppose Trump, he will destroy the Republican Party in a spasm of sheer bloody-minded vengeance.

But he’s clever about it:

Has Trump actually told them this? Or have they simply accepted over time that this is the lay of the land? There’s no telling, but it makes sense in any case. Trump, after all, plainly has no special loyalty to the Republican Party. And retribution against his enemies is his single strongest drive in his life. If the GOP rejected him, he would reject them in return ten times over, probably by forming his own political party and taking with him half of all Republicans in existence.

That may be what worries Lindsey Graham. Trump isn’t really the future of the Republican Party, but he certainly could end it right now. That’s sort of the same thing. He’s got them trapped, or maybe not:

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

This is one step beyond Liz Cheney’s protest:

“This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

And what do they want, to stay and keep the party together? They’re not sure. But they want their old party back:

Mr. Taylor declined on Tuesday to reveal the specific changes that the coalition was planning to demand of the Republican Party in its statement.

“I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the GOP back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.”

He wants a rational party? He’s four years too late. Paul Waldman sets him straight:

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Republican Party has pretty much lost its mind. In the time since the 2020 election, rather than trying to make a new start after the disaster of the Trump years, it has become more radical and more extreme. Most important of all, it has emphatically and comprehensively rejected democracy itself.

Now here’s the scariest part: There’s almost no reason to believe that this will hurt the ability of Republicans to win elections and take back the power they’ve lost.

The world has changed:

If you’re like many Americans, you probably think there’s almost nothing your own party could do that would make you vote for the other party. But your conception of “what my party would do” is limited by what it has done, or even contemplated doing, in the past. When you imagine your party going “too far,” you probably think of it nominating a presidential candidate you don’t like or pursuing a misguided policy objective.

But that’s not what’s happening right now with the GOP. They are not just abandoning any commitment to democracy. They’re preparing an outright war on the American political system. And so far there’s little evidence that they’ll pay a price for it.

By preparing to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership position specifically because she refuses to parrot the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, House Republicans have put that lie at the center of their party’s identity.

Meanwhile in Arizona, a bonkers “audit” of the state’s presidential ballots ordered by the state Senate in a desperate attempt to prove that the election was stolen from Trump has proved to be an absolute carnival of craziness. They’re literally searching for bamboo fibers in the ballots to see if they may have come from China and are thus part of a global conspiracy.

Meanwhile, two of the party’s most toxic figures, Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) are on a triumphant tour, whipping up the party faithful with lies about 2020 and war cries for the next election.

And now only the cynics survive:

I’m quite sure that outside of a few truly deranged members, almost all elected Republicans in Congress know that Trump lost. But they’re making a calculation that because of polarization, it doesn’t matter how extreme they get, what kind of lies they encourage people to believe, or what kind of damage they do to our system. If they can keep their base angry, it will give them the path back to power.

And of course they’re right:

Show me the Republicans in Washington who will lose their seats for being too supportive of Trump and the “big lie” of the stolen election. Who are they? The combination of gerrymandering, geographical sorting and polarization means there are almost none. The party can get steadily more unhinged and more implacably opposed to democracy, with consequences for its electoral fortunes that are temporary at most.

All it would take to return them to complete power in Washington is an ordinary midterm election followed by an economic downturn in 2024, whereupon whichever cynical extremist they nominate for president could sneak into the White House.

We keep waiting for the moment when the country says, “Now you’ve gone too far, Republicans,” and sends them into oblivion. But the truth is, they see no reason to change the path they’re on.

Liz is gone. She never stood a chance. “And you tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend. you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…”

Well, this time, we are.

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The New Heroics

Someone has to stand up to the bullies and sometimes the most unlikely someone does. That would be Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca – burnt out and cynical and nobody’s hero, nobody’s patsy actually, hiding out the war in his Café Américain there, an apolitical and rather classy gambling joint – actually an elaborate set on a Warner Brothers soundstage just off Barham Boulevard over in Burbank. But that didn’t matter. Ingrid Bergman was Ilsa Lund, the woman he had loved in Paris who had suddenly disappeared and broke his heart, who shows up at his new Café with her actual husband – the noble Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) – and then everything changes. The Nazis are bullies and they’ll ruin everything. They’ll ruin the world. Rick Blaine becomes the hero. He foils the Nazis. He gets Laszlo to safety in the west, on that last flight to Lisbon, with Ilsa. He stays. This isn’t about him. He gets it – “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

And then he’s outta there – off to join the Free French garrison down the coast with his new buddy, the clever Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) – as he says, the start of a beautiful friendship. He has given up everything that mattered to him, his snazzy new Café and the love of his life, but someone has to do the right thing. The bullies can’t win. That’s the important thing. That’s the only thing. The end. Roll the credits.

Now imagine Liz Cheney as Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, doing the right thing and sacrificing it all to stop the bullies. Okay, that’s a stretch. But the parallels are there. Calvin Woodward, for the Associated Press, explains the current situation:

Allegiance to a lie has become a test of loyalty to Donald Trump and a means of self-preservation for Republicans.

Trump’s discredited allegations about a stolen election did nothing to save his presidency when courtrooms high and low, state governments and ultimately Congress – meeting in the chaos of an insurrection powered by his grievances – affirmed the legitimacy of his defeat and the honesty of the process that led to it.

Now those “Big Lie” allegations, no closer to true than before, are getting a second, howling wind.

Republicans are expected to believe the falsehoods, pretend they do or at bare minimum not let it be known that they don’t. State Republican leaders from Georgia to Arizona have been flamed by Trump or his followers for standing against the lies.

He’s the bully. Republicans know the deal here. Say he’s really the president. They stole that from him. Do that or get ruined. Be a bully for him or get ruined. The Nazis are sitting around the table at Rick’s Café Américain singing their Nazi marching song when Victor Laszlo stands up and starts to lead everyone else in La Marseillaise. Rick nods to the band. Go for it. Everyone does. They drown out the Nazis. There’ll be hell to pay for this, but La Marseillaise rings out.

That’s Liz:

Only a select few Republicans in Washington are defying him, for they, too, know that doing so comes with a cost.

Liz Cheney, lifelong conservative and daughter of a vice president once loved by the Republican right while earning the nickname Darth Vader, was willing to pay it.

“History is watching,” the Wyoming congresswoman wrote as House Republicans prepared to strip her of her No. 3 leadership position this coming week over her confrontation with Trump. “Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”

And now this seems like that old movie where what matters is who sings loudest:

Everyone enmeshed in Trump’s relentless election claims agrees a “Big Lie” is at the heart of the matter. President Joe Biden says so. Cheney said so. Dominion Voting Systems alleges in a massive lawsuit that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie.’”

Trump tried to appropriate the phrase by turning it against his accusers, a pattern from his presidency when he railed against “fake news” after having his own called out.

“The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” he said in a statement last week, delivered as if by force of proclamation.

But none of that makes much sense:

Trump led his party in an election that cost Republicans the presidency and their Senate majority while leaving them short of taking over in the House. For all that, the party’s brute-force Trump faction is ascendant as Republicans place their bets on the energy and passions of his core supporters in the approach to the midterm elections next year.

In short, the Republicans are betting on their bullies. That’s all they’ve got:

“This message is working,” said former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman, driven from Congress by a Trump-aligned opponent in the party’s nomination race in his Virginia district last year. Riggleman pointed to strong local fund-raising success and poll numbers for Trump loyalists.

“If you’ve got to say things you don’t believe in, as long as that leads to a win, that’s what’s most important,” he told MSNBC. “If you think you can win by fanning these flames of disinformation, why wouldn’t you do that?” He added: “If you have no integrity.”

In the running to replace Cheney in the House GOP leadership, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York in recent days endorsed Trump’s false claims of voting fraud and of a ballot recount being conducted in Arizona’s Maricopa County by a company whose leader has shared unfounded conspiracy theories about the election.

Artifice unfolded in Florida as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis staged a fake signing ceremony Thursday on Fox News for a bill he actually signed elsewhere. The bill imposes new voting restrictions to fix problems state officials acknowledged haven’t really been found, but might be in the future.

Bullies know what they’re doing. Without integrity all things are possible. Donald Trump knows that:

Trump has been busy resurfacing election claims he’s aired countless times before. They’ve been systematically debunked.

In a statement Friday, Trump asserted: “At 6:31 in the morning on November 4th, a dump of 149,772 votes came in to the State of Michigan. Biden received 96% of those votes and the State miraculously went to him.”

No vote dump happened. The morning after November’s election, Trump allies shared a map of Michigan that appeared to show Biden getting a huge spike of votes in an update. But the online news organization that was tracking results and published that map confirmed the same day it had made a data error and corrected it.

Trump went on: “Likewise, at 3:42 in the morning, a dump of 143,379 votes came in to the state of Wisconsin, also miraculously, given to Biden. Where did these ‘votes’ come from?”

Nothing nefarious here, either. Biden’s early-morning comeback was simply the result of absentee and early votes being counted in Wisconsin’s largest city and reported at once. Milwaukee counts absentee ballots in one centralized location and reports the results in a batch.

Election officials finished counting the city’s roughly 169,000 absentee ballots and uploaded the results about 3 a.m. after Election Day. Milwaukee police then escorted the city’s elections director to the county courthouse to deliver thumb drives with the data.

The outstanding ballots at that point overwhelmingly broke for Biden. A Democrat, winning in a big city, surprises no one.

Woodward adds much more of the same, and ends with this, with Liz Cheney as the hero here:

For four years Mike Pence epitomized the loyal vice president. But his pro forma certification of Biden’s victory Jan. 6 put him on the outs with Trump and clouded his political future, though he had no authority under the Constitution, congressional rules, the law or custom to stand in Biden’s way.

In one of his broadsides last week, Trump assailed Cheney, Pence and labeled Sen. Mitch McConnell “gutless and clueless” in one go. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, voted for Trump’s acquittal but pronounced him “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the Jan. 6 insurrection, drawing the ex-president’s enduring enmity.

Since then, McConnell and Pence have turned the other cheek. Darth Vader’s daughter didn’t.

She’s the problem here. Something must be done. NBC News’ Allan Smith covers that:

In criticizing House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney’s repeated condemnations and refutations of former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about his electoral loss last fall, Republicans have said that the party needs to look forward and that she is distracting from messaging against the Biden administration.

“Republicans are almost completely unified in a single mission to oppose the radical, dangerous Biden agenda and win back the majority in the midterm election,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said on Fox News Sunday. “And any other focus other than that is a distraction from stopping the Biden agenda.”

Really? No one told the Big Guy:

Within the past six weeks, Trump has released more than 20 statements falsely claiming that the election was characterized by “massive fraud,” that it was “rigged” or “stolen” and that he “won by a landslide,” among other assertions. He has praised “great patriots” overseeing a partisan audit of ballots in Arizona, as well as an audit in a small New Hampshire town.

In the last week, Trump tried to reframe language around “the big lie” – which has been used to describe his claims about a stolen election – and referred to “vote dumps.” He also wrongly proclaimed that if only Mike Pence, then the vice president, and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., then the Senate majority leader, had “fought” harder, he’d still be president – language he used in the immediate run-up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

That bit of a riot shut him up for a time, but Liz got his goat and now he can’t seem to help himself, or the Republican Party:

“We’re four months after Jan. 6,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “An insurrection, something that was unthinkable in this country. And the message from people who want to get rid of Liz Cheney is to say, ‘It’s just time to focus on the future and move on.’ Like this was 10 years ago and we’ve been obsessed with it since.”

“It’s been four months, and we have so many people, including our leadership in the party, that has not admitted this is what it is, which was an insurrection led by the president of the United States well deserving of a full accounting from Republicans,” said Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans, including Cheney, who voted in February to impeach Trump over his conduct around the riot.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who has often criticized Trump, said he is bothered that “you have to swear fealty to the ‘Dear Leader’ or you get kicked out of the party.”

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “It’s sort of a circular firing squad where we’re just attacking members of our own party instead of focusing on solving problems.”

They hope that their dear Liz will save the day. but she may not be the hero (heroine) they imagine. Maureen Dowd, the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, has a long memory, and she knows this woman:

I miss torturing Liz Cheney.

But it must be said that the petite blonde from Wyoming suddenly seems like a Valkyrie amid halflings.

She is willing to sacrifice her leadership post – and risk her political career – to continue calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. She has decided that, if the price of her job is being as unctuous to Trump as Kevin McCarthy is, it isn’t worth it, because McCarthy is totally disgracing himself.

So she is Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, doing the right thing and sacrificing it all to stop the bully and his jack-booted troops. She’s out:

It has been a dizzying fall for the scion of one of the most powerful political families in the land, a conservative chip off the old block who was once talked about as a comer, someone who could be the first woman president.

But the world has changed:

How naïve I was to think that Republicans would be eager to change the channel after Trump cost them the Senate and the White House and unleashed a mob on them.

I thought the Donald would evaporate in a poof of orange smoke, ending a supremely screwed-up period of history. But the loudest mouth is not shutting up. And Republicans continue to listen, clinging to the idea that the dinosaur is the future. “We can’t grow without him,” Lindsey Graham said.

Liz disagrees. That must be heroic. But that might be something else:

That trademark Cheney bluntness made Liz the toast of MSNBC and CNN, where chatterers praised her as an avatar of the venerable “fact-based” Republican Party decimated by Trump.

But if Liz Cheney wants to be in the business of speaking truth to power, she’s going to have to dig a little deeper.

Let’s acknowledge who created the template for Trump’s Big Lie.

That’s something that runs in the family:

It was her father, Dick Cheney, whose Big Lie about the Iraq war led to the worst mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Liz, who was the captain of her high school cheerleading team and titled her college thesis “The Evolution of Presidential War Powers,” cheered on her dad as he spread fear, propaganda and warped intelligence.

From her patronage perch in the State Department during the Bush-Cheney years, she bolstered her father’s trumped-up case for an invasion of Iraq. Even after no WMD’s were found, she continued to believe the invasion was the right thing to do.

“She almost thrives in an atmosphere where the overall philosophy is discredited and she is a lonely voice,” a State Department official who worked with Liz told Joe Hagan for a 2010 New York magazine profile of the younger Cheney on her way up.

And that led to this:

She was a staunch defender of the torture program. “Well, it wasn’t torture, Norah, so that’s not the right way to lay out the argument,” she instructed Norah O’Donnell in 2009, looking on the bright side of waterboarding.

She backed the futile, 20-year occupation of the feudal Afghanistan. (Even Bob Gates thinks we should have left in 2002.) Last month, when President Biden announced plans to pull out, Liz Cheney – who wrote a book with her father that accused Barack Obama of abandoning Iraq and making America weaker – slapped back: “We know that this kind of pullback is reckless. It’s dangerous.”

But that’s what happens with a man from Kenya:

For many years, she had no trouble swimming in Fox News bile. Given the chance to denounce the Obama birther conspiracy, she demurred, interpreting it live on air as people being “uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”

Yes, Dowd is not a fan of this woman:

In her Washington Post piece, Cheney wrote that her party is at a “turning point” and that Republicans “must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”

Sage prose from someone who was a lieutenant to her father when he assaulted checks and balances, shredding America’s Constitution even as he imposed one on Iraq.

Because of 9/11, Dick Cheney thought he could suspend the Constitution, attack nations preemptively and trample civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. (And for his own political survival.)

Keeping Americans afraid was a small price to pay for engorging executive power, which the former Nixon and Ford aide thought had been watered down too much after Watergate.

It’s time to rethink this:

Liberals responded to Trump’s derangements by bathing the Bush-Cheney crowd in a flattering nostalgic light… but Trump built a movement based on lies.

The Cheneys showed him how it’s done.

That’s harsh. Her colleague Frank Bruni sees ambiguities:

No sooner had I become overwhelmed by the corpulent body of journalism about Liz Cheney as some beacon of moral clarity than I began to feel besieged by dissents about what a wretched opportunist she really is.

Can’t she be all of the above?

Not in the America of today. Not in the media of the moment. Either she was underrated in the past or is overrated in the present. She’s standing squarely on a bedrock of principle or she’s cunningly maneuvering within a crowd of ambitious Republicans to find a space and a grace all her own.

Over here, she’s a martyr; over there, a hack in holy drag. To one set of eyes, this is the end of her political career. To another, it’s the beginning of her political legend.

Neither take is correct. And the war between them is the latest and one of the greatest examples of our inability to hold two thoughts at the same time.

But there’s the third thought, that most Republicans are crazy:

There’s plenty about Liz Cheney not to love. But that doesn’t change the weirdness of some of the complaints about her current conduct. Her Republican foes have been whispering to Washington journalists – and some political analysts have cottoned to the notion – that her sin isn’t denouncing Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election results. It’s continuing to denounce them. It’s beating a dead horse. Time to move on!

Excuse me? Trump sure as hell hasn’t moved on, and the horse in question is the very integrity of American democracy. It’s worth beating to an equine pulp.

Her critics say that she’s miring the party in the recent past and thus jeopardizing its opportunity to pick up House and Senate seats in next year’s midterms. Well, a party that validates Trump’s extravagant lies doesn’t deserve to gain any ground. When the team is this rotten, there’s no fault in contributing to its defeat.

Then there’s all the eye rolling over what a self-aggrandizing showboat Cheney is being. If Congress purged all its self-aggrandizing showboats, it would be the loneliest of seas.

And that leaves this one awful person doing the one right thing:

It’s true, as Cheney’s detractors note, that she doesn’t stand a chance of out-smarming such Trump sycophants as Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton and that the likeliest crown for her is the Trump-defying one. She’s nonetheless gambling with her political future in reaching for it.

And she’s saying something that must be said. Chuck Todd of NBC News called her “the last flickering light” of the conservative movement, which is about to be “snuffed out” by obeisance to Trump and his fictions.

I don’t know about “last,” but she is pushing back at nothing less than darkness. I’m grateful for that, no matter how else I feel about her…

The Washington Post’s James Downie, however, does see villains:

With the likely ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican Conference chair and the public booing of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at the state GOP’s convention, it was no surprise that the Sunday shows focused on one of political media’s favorite topics. “This week: party purge,” intoned Meet the Press host Chuck Todd to open the show. “This is going to be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told Todd. “We’re very divided as a party. And that’s no secret,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on CNN’s State of the Union.

But as much as media outlets love intraparty conflict, there’s no battle here.

The battle is over. Trump won:

This is not to pretend, as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie did on ABC’s This Week, that most Republicans side with Cheney against former president Donald Trump’s lies about the election. (When host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that 70 percent of Republicans do not believe Joe Biden won the presidency legitimately, Christie could only grouse that “the people that I talk to are not in that camp.”) The fact that Washington has expected Cheney’s removal for days fits with what Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told Fox News Sunday: “Republicans are almost completely unified in a single mission to oppose the radical, dangerous Biden agenda… except for Liz Cheney.”

And she doesn’t matter now:

Others have noted that the distance between Cheney’s GOP and Trump’s GOP is far smaller than she’d admit… but the broader pattern goes much further back than the Bush years.

The Republican Party playbook is the same as it ever was: Disguise worshipfully pro-big business, pro-wealthy policies with appeals to the resentments of President Richard M. Nixon’s “silent majority” or Sarah Palin’s “real Americans” or whatever label the party prefers for a specific type of White American.

Every liberal project – from Social Security in the 1930s to Medicare and integration in the 1960s to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage in the 2010s — is cast as a mortal threat to freedom pushed by the eggheads, the ivory tower or the coastal elites. The threat of “outside agitators” becomes the peril of “political correctness” becomes the menace of “ridiculous wokeness” – the term Cheney used in her Post op-ed last week. They’re all the same look.

There’s nothing new here. Trump just cranked up the volume:

The dog whistles became bullhorns; the “executive time” administration plumbed new depths of incompetence. But for Republicans, as televangelist and later right-wing presidential candidate Pat Robertson said 40 years ago, “it’s better to have a stable government under a crook than turmoil under an honest man.” The threat of liberalism outweighs the risk of an inept, amoral or fascistic president. The Trump era – including its culmination in January’s attempted insurrection – was not out of step with that.

And there are no heroes:

There’s no “battle” for the party’s soul; there are only the party leaders who will keep swimming in this foul stream leaving behind those that don’t. For the rest of the country, including the media, reckoning with that fact means being honest about it – the sooner, the better.

And of course Casablanca was only a movie. Bogart walks off into the fog, the noble hero who risked it all and finally stood up to that generation’s big bullies, even if he lost it all.

The studio set up those fog machines. That was the Van Nuys airport. No one lost anything. It was just for show. But it was a great show. Liz Cheney wasn’t in it.

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