The Buzz

Reflexive Hawkishness 2014

As some had speculated, Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, announced yesterday that she would run for the Senate in Wyoming in 2014, challenging incumbent Mike Enzi. Daniel Larison dubs this “possibly the most pointless primary challenge ever”:

The obvious flaw in Cheney’s challenge is that Enzi has done nothing to anger voters in Wyoming or conservatives nationally. Other than trying to re-establish the Cheney family in Wyoming politics, her candidacy serves no purpose. . . . Except for her hard-line foreign policy advocacy, Cheney doesn’t have much to offer Wyoming voters, so it’s not clear why they would chuck out a popular incumbent to make way for her.

It’s true that, on an issue-by-issue basis, one shouldn’t expect too much daylight between the two candidates. As Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan note, “It seems unlikely that Cheney will gain much traction by casting Enzi as insufficiently conservative,” given that Enzi “was the 8th most conservative senator in 2012, according to National Journal’s vote ratings and has a 93 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.”

What seems clear is that the logic for this challenge isn’t based so much on a single issue or set of issues as it is on a general approach to both governing and foreign policy. In her video announcing her campaign, Cheney did not mention Enzi by name, but she did say this: “Instead of cutting deals with the president’s liberal allies, we should be opposing them every step of the way.” The promise is that if elected, Cheney would be even more vocal and aggressive in her reflexive opposition to all elements of the president’s agenda.

Meanwhile, as the debate over the GOP’s foreign-policy future continues, there is no doubt where Cheney would stand in the divide between the neoconservatives and the more noninterventionist wing. As Jacob Heilbrunn observed here at TNI last week, she has served as a sort of custodian of her father’s reputation, defending the Bush-Cheney foreign-policy legacy and excoriating President Obama for his supposed weakness overseas. She has accused Obama of “working to pre-emptively disarm the United States” and said that he is “unwilling to go after the terrorists that are threatening the nation”—an odd line of attack given the administration’s rather aggressive approach to counterterrorism over its first term. According to her, “Apologizing for America, appeasing our enemies, abandoning our allies and slashing our military are the hallmarks of Mr. Obama's foreign policy.”

In short, if you believe that the Republican Party’s principal problem lately is that it has been too accommodating and ready to compromise, Liz Cheney is your candidate. Likewise, if you believe that the principal problem in American foreign policy today is that the country hasn’t been willing enough to employ military force overseas, Liz Cheney is your candidate. Whether or not this wins her a Senate seat in Wyoming, given where national public opinion stands, it’s very difficult to see this as a blueprint for a successful national-level approach.