Who’s Liz Cheney ?
Good question. There are at least two of them, but all are the oldest daughter of Dick and Lynn Cheney.
There’s Elizabeth Lynn Cheney, long-time resident of McClean, Virginia, recipient of a B.A. from the very liberal and elite Colorado College, and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School (1996), including coursework in Middle Eastern history. Elizabeth served in mid-level positions in the State Department during the Bush-Cheney years, and remained afterward rising quickly through the ranks of various bureaucratic roles involving national security and foreign policy issues.
And then there’s ‘Liz’ Cheney, the one tapped by her father and others shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama, to continue the Cheney neo-conservative legacy as an elected politician. A small group of family and friends, including Alan Simpson, Karl Rove and Bill Kristol, crafted strategies and political theater pieces for the new ‘Liz’.
But which state to use? Or ‘Represent’? She was born in Wisconsin but most of her life had been spent in McClean, Virginia, where she graduated from high school, and where she and her McClean native husband Philip Perry, also an attorney and former Bush-Cheney operative, live to this day. Virginia would accept her neo-con credentials but also trended hard blue and could freeze out political newcomers without a ton of money and political capital for state operatives.
And then there’s Wyoming. Her ties were strictly through her parents. Lynn and Dick had grown up in Casper and made their base there for Dick’s first Congressional run. The Cheney’s kept an obligatory physical presence in Wyoming, were frequently there to see and be seen, and had forged strong and lasting ties with Wyoming political operatives, including the Alan Simpson family and circle. Wyoming is known for having the cheapest legislative seats in the nation to buy and so gets “carpetbaggers” virtually every election cycle. A fact Wyoming resents. But Dick was popular enough that his policies had become almost interchangeable with Wyoming Republicanism. So Wyoming it was.
Liz the legislator would be a tough, no-nonsense, country girl fighting for God, truth and the American way – guns, oil, wide-open spaces, tough foreign policy, tight national security and all – against Obama progressivism.
Of course, Liz’d run as a Republican, the party affiliation Democrats Dick and Lynn had adopted for his Wyoming Congressional runs following the rule “you run as a Republican to win in Wyoming”. Her brand of neo-conservatism would include a professed social conservative bent.
Her first opportunity for office would be a Senate seat in 2014, following a rumored retirement by Mike Enzi. Liz was well-known and influential in D.C. but had to gain credibility in Wyoming. In 2010 she and her father staged a strategic CPAC launch. Wyoming Republicans, like many newly awakened conservative Tea Partiers, viewed CPAC as their own national convention. ‘Liz’ was a featured speaker that year, and following her firm rebuke of Obama and his policies, she delivered a teaser introduction for her father. Dick ambled out with his sly smile, and the crowd went wild. He made it clear that Liz would now lead the charge he had once commanded. And a Wyoming ‘star’ was born.
Cheney and her husband registered to vote in Teton County Wyoming in 2012 or 2013, and bought a multi-million dollar vacation home in Wilson. In 2013 Cheney announced her intention to run for Enzi’s Senate seat, but Enzi et al. had other succession plans, so he reluctantly abandoned retirement. And while the Cheney package had its Wyoming supporters, a larger segment were rejecting an obvious carpet-bagger. Cheney withdrew.
Her first successful run was for the US House in 2016, a seat held by her father, so there was a sense of rightness to the move. She had learned and convincingly delivered the messages most Wyoming voters wanted to hear, she was showing up at state and county GOP meetings in gingham shirts, faded jeans and scuffed boots to bolster the ‘just dropped by after a day at the ranch’ image, and she seemed to stay on the right side of issues dear to Wyoming’s heart. She won by a large margin. Her work and the money and power of the Cheney circle resulted in an almost unheard-of rise in House Republican leadership to number three in under four years. And without doing the fundraising that kind of a rise always requires.
In 2019, barely into her second term, she teased interest in the Senate seat finally vacated by Enzi but early and strong support for the well-known and tested capabilities of home-girl Cynthia Lummis appeared to tip Cheney’s hand. In mid-January 2020 she ended speculation about a Senate race, saying she felt she could do more in the House. And Wyoming people were pleased, confident they’d have two great women in Washington.
Then on July 1st Cheney used an interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC (shocking in itself) to berate Trump publicly for, among other things, his COVID and foreign policies. Scott Wong speculated in an article in The Hill that she was driven by “long-held convictions and principles … not any carefully laid political strategy”. People in Wyoming wondered “what in the hell is she doing??”. Given the heat of the campaign and the Trump pile on by media and Democrats, it was a fair question. She certainly wasn’t speaking for Wyoming voters, so what was she doing?
And Cheney kept it up. People openly doubted the story line of “convictions and principles” and started to hear rumors of 2024 White House ambitions. A pivot to a national run would explain her most explosive statement of divorce from the people she was elected to represent. On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, Cheney stated she would not represent the people of Wyoming but would vote ‘her conscience’ for impeachment of President Donald J Trump. If she intended to run for President, she didn’t need the people of Wyoming.
Liz Cheney at that moment wrote the constitution of the State of Liz, population one, answerable only to herself, representing Never Trump constituents across the nation, inserting herself in debates wherever she could gain followers.
And Wyoming voters with their one Congressional district? They’re RINOs or progressives along for the ride in the State of Liz – or they are SOL .