by Scott McKay
The abject implosion of a politician once thought to possess national prospects — though not due to her talent but rather her name and connections — might have been overshadowed by the alarming performance just a few hours later by our near-invalid president. But Liz Cheney’s bizarre performance on the U.S. Capitol steps Wednesday was nonetheless notable.
If you haven’t followed the lead-up to Wednesday’s meltdown, it involved the sham 9/11 Commission–style inquiry being built to examine the Capitol riot of Jan. 6. That inquiry, to be chaired by partisan hack Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson on behalf of Nancy Pelosi, is obviously not built to fully examine what happened that day; it’s built to assign blame to the Republican Party for what Pelosi and the rest of the Democrat Party is determined to present as a casus belli against half of the American people.
Pelosi’s Jan. 6 commission is a big deal, because she has turned the Capitol into an armed camp behind razor wire for most of the past six months and change over the dubious assertion that the protesters who descended on the building and briefly disrupted the vote to certify a presidential election that still reeks of irregularity and worse presented an “insurrection” and a “grave threat to democracy” to trump (pun not intended, but whatever) anything else since the Civil War.
The American people don’t seem to agree. While majorities in recent polls will allow the use of “insurrection” and “an attack on democracy” to describe the Capitol riot, a Rasmussen poll last week found only 49 percent support for Pelosi’s inquisition. By contrast, 66 percent of those polled wished to see a full inquiry into the BLM/Antifa riots that took place across the country in 2020.
The Democrats are losing the narrative on Jan. 6. Support for an inquisition, particularly the one-sided hacktastic stunt Pelosi is bent on delivering, is very soft.
So it was important that she give it a bipartisan color without actually making it bipartisan in scope. The last thing Pelosi can afford is for a Jan. 6 inquiry to veer off into items like the suspicious lack of security around the Capitol, the certain presence, though uncertain scope, of leftist agitators salted among the protesters who stormed the building, the rather permissive attitude of the Capitol Police toward letting protesters in, the killing of Ashli Babbitt, and the outrageous detention without bail or prospect of a speedy trial since the event of so many people whose essential offense was trespassing. Perhaps even the genesis of the lie that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died of natural causes a day later, was killed by protesters.
Those are the kinds of things a truly bipartisan inquiry would also examine. Not to mention that a truly bipartisan inquiry would aim to expose the sources of political violence across the spectrum, to include Antifa and BLM.
But Nancy Pelosi is not interested in any of those things.
She found Liz Cheney, who has torched her political career by harping on former President Donald Trump’s role in “stoking” the Jan. 6 riot and voting for his post-presidential impeachment on that basis, and appointed her to the commission over the objections of the GOP caucus and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
That appointment was as irregular as the election the protesters were demonstrating against. The GOP leadership would traditionally appoint its members to the commission.
McCarthy’s response to Pelosi forcing Cheney down his throat was instructive. He countered by naming five Republicans of his own, two of whom were certain to spoil the setup the commission was clearly intended to become — namely, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, both of whom would gleefully serve as bulls in Thompson’s china shop.
Everyone knows that Jordan is a nightmare for Democrat narratives. He might just be the House Republican most hated by the Speaker and her leadership team. McCarthy’s nomination of Jordan was a fully extended middle finger of defiance to Pelosi and her efforts to stack the Jan. 6 deck.
And she couldn’t take it. She threw Jordan and Banks off the commission, which resulted in McCarthy pulling all five of his nominees.
Then came Cheney’s meltdown.
Trotted out to the Capitol steps, almost certainly at the behest of the Speaker, Cheney proceeded to trash McCarthy for his defiance and defended Pelosi’s actions. In classic Baghdad Bob style, she said she is “absolutely confident that we’ll have a nonpartisan investigation” and unloaded on Banks as a “material witness” and Jordan as “unserious” about what happened on Jan. 6; both would therefore be unfit to serve on the commission. Cheney said that since Pelosi had accepted McCarthy’s other three nominees, it was therefore unobjectionable that she would blackball Banks and Jordan.
This after Cheney had previously said Pelosi had “no business determining which Republicans sit on committees,” and that it “sets a dangerous precedent for this institution” for a Speaker to invade the purview of a minority leader in such a way.
Then came the biggest whopper of all. “Any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law,” she said, after getting a question about McCarthy’s likely status as the next House Speaker following the 2022 elections, “and Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.”
Pelosi’s Jan. 6 kangaroo court is the rule of law?
We can talk about Liz Cheney in the past tense at this point, for more than one reason. She’s obviously not long for the congressional seat she holds; the only question is which of her announced opponents will be the one to take her out.
But what else makes her a dead politician walking is that Liz Cheney represents a moribund and decaying American politics that putrefies by the day.
Americans are tired of sanctimony, and they’ve had enough of obvious lies. On the Republican side, they’ve had enough of mediocrities who sidle up to political enemies and give them aid and comfort when none are prescribed.
No serious person believes that a Jan. 6 commission built by Nancy Pelosi and chaired by Bennie Thompson would move us any closer to a true understanding of that event. It’s questionable whether any serious person believes there is much to understand; lots of people found the 2020 election to be more than a little difficult to swallow, their demands for an accounting of the irregularities of that election went unrequited, and so they went to Washington to petition their government for a redress of those grievances. Things got out of hand in so highly charged an environment, and security should have been tighter in anticipation of it, which is Pelosi’s fault.
Particularly when it’s clear there was at least some role played by anti-Trump salts in that crowd attempting to create a public-relations mess for his side. Why anybody would find that hard to believe is mystifying; seen in a Machiavellian light it’s almost admirable.
But Liz Cheney’s stance on everything having to do with Jan. 6 is a classic Washington Generals/Aw, Shucks Republican play. It’s Failure Theater to a T. Combine moral preening with an attack on your own side, and then continue harping on the point far past its plausible value.
And then preen some more amid the destruction you’ve caused to morale of your side or your own political career.
Republican voters have absolutely had it with the politics of Liz Cheney. And for good reason. Nobody likes a loser, and she’s addicted to losing. McCarthy even bailed her out when much of the House GOP caucus wanted her gone from her former position as conference chair, but she stubbornly continued picking at the Jan. 6 scab until finally he relented and allowed her ouster. And now Kevin McCarthy is at fault for Liz Cheney having no political friends left.
But while Cheney represents the dead politics, McCarthy, interestingly enough, represents something better.
You don’t think of political innovation when it comes to Kevin McCarthy. He isn’t exactly au courant.
But McCarthy, a little like Lindsey Graham on the Senate side, does appear to be evolving.
Paul Ryan would never have appointed Jim Jordan to that Jan. 6 commission. Nor would John Boehner have. Kevin McCarthy of five years ago probably wouldn’t.
And he absolutely wouldn’t have yanked all the Republicans off the commission when Pelosi rejected Jordan and Banks.
It isn’t a big thing. But it’s a marker. McCarthy has a lot more fight in him now than the GOP on Capitol Hill is known for. It’s clear his frequent conversations with Trump have borne some fruit in the last several months. And the politics are changing. Not fast enough to meet the demand of the electorate, but the change is notable.
That augurs well for what’s likely to come in January of 2023. Faster, please.
– – –
Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott’s other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits – check it out here.