Liz Cheney, Neocon Senator and President?
So Liz Cheney is thinking about running for the Senate. Anyone who thinks that her ambitions will stop there if she is elected doesn't understand the real Cheney game plan. Daughter Cheney is the Cerberus guarding her father's reputation—she apparently wrote much of his memoir—and has tried, as best she can, to protect his reputation, which, it seems safe to say, suffered a few dings over the past decade, not least because of his huffing and puffing about the terrorist threat emanating from Iraq, which proved not just to be wrong but actively destructive. No matter. Cheney has dismissed it as the niggling complaints of liberal squishes who fail to recongize the advances for justice and democracy that occurred on his watch.
This Sunday's New York Times report that Liz Cheney is mulling over whether she should challenge Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is already causing palpitations among liberals and conservatives alike. Liberals love to loathe her. And conservatives, at least traditional ones, are worried that she would divide but not conquer the Republican party in Wyoming, thereby setting the stage for a Democrat to nab the seat. Is this a new version of Back to the Future or is it Groundhog Day? What cooler heads in the GOP worry about is that this is the Tea Party all over again, at least the more extreme candidates who went down in flames in various states, costing the party control of the Senate. Meanwhile, Cheney is touting her Wyoming bona fides, posting pictures of her children riding horses and engaging in the other strange things they practice way out West.
What this is really about, however, is back East, where political power has always tempted the Cheney clan, from Dick to Lynne. Another grouping has a profoundly deep interest in Cheney's success as well. That would be the neocons, the ones clustered around William Kristol. For the neocons, a Cheney candidacy would be a great cause, a way to revivify the movement politically. Currently, the neocons enjoy respectability, at least in Washington. But they are not enjoying the kind of political power that they commanded under George W. Bush. Perhaps Cheney could be the horse that they could ride back to the White House. She has served in the Bush administration as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. She is a chairman of Keep America Safe—William Kristol is its director and Michael Goldfarb, another leading neocon, helped establish the organization in 2009. She routinely accuses President Obama of trying to "appease"—a favorite neocon term—Iran and Russia. Not the greatest or most careful rhetorician—she claimed Obama had betrayed "Czechoslovakia" which hasn't existed as a country for several decades—she prefers to paint with a broad brush. Writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, for example, she offered standard boilerplate:
The president has so effectively diminished American strength abroad that there is no longer a question of whether this was his intent. He is working to pre-emptively disarm the United States. He advocates slashing our nuclear arsenal even as the North Koreans threaten us and the Iranians close in on their own nuclear weapon. He has turned his back on America's allies around the world and ignored growing threats.
To have Liz Cheney in the Senate, in other words, would be like having Dick Cheney back in the spotlight. The Cheneys, a threatening family, live themselves in a permanent state of fear and threats. They see foes and problems where there are none and none where they do exist. Liz is doing her best to keep up that family tradition. For his eldest daughter to claim a Senate seat would, moreover, be a way for Cheney to assert himself against the Bushs, who have shunned him, particularly George W.
Cheney could point to himself as the founder of a promising new dynasty. To be sure, Cheney was never officially president. But no one doubts that the man who proclaimed recently that "I had a job to do" was president all but in name. Liz could take it a step further if she ran for the Oval Office, championing democracy abroad even as she breathes contempt for it at home, just as her father did. It may be a bit early for her to challenge Hillary in 2016. But then again, Obama didn't wait long, either. The Republican presidential primary could get a lot more interesting before long.
The tenacity of the Cheneys mirrors that of the neocons more generally. Iraq? WMD? Say what? In Washington accountability is so yesterday. The Cheneys, you could even say, aren't making a comeback. They never went away.