As a Republican member of the special congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6, Congresswoman Liz Cheney said recently that the United States is “confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before” in the form of former President Donald Trump.
Cheney said Trump is “attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic.”
“Political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims are aiding the former President who is at war with the rule of law, and the Constitution,” Cheney said. “When our constitutional order is threatened, as it is now, rising above partisanship is not simply an aspiration. It is an obligation.”
Since when has anyone named Cheney felt obligated to uphold the Constitution? Set aside for a moment whether or not you believe Trump is a threat to constitutional order or anything else.
Let’s remember where Cheney has been a threat to the rule of law and our constitutional republic.
In 2011, when former Republican Congressman Justin Amash, former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and most of the Tea Party movement was insisting that then-President Barack Obama did not have the constitutional authority to attack Libya, Cheney joined former Republican Senator John McCain and others to push for a special resolution to allow it—the Constitution be damned.
At the time, Rep. Amash shared this quote from presidential candidate Obama in 2007 to remind him of his restricted authority regarding war powers, “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
That’s a pretty clear statement and is certainly the constitutional position. It is also a stance Cheney and most neoconservatives have disagreed with in practice for decades regarding foreign policy—no matter how dangerous it has been for America long-term or who the president was at the time.
Neocons are always quick to warn of the dangers of letting Congress and the Constitution get in the way of the next war. Similarly, not following the Constitution and toppling Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi through executive order in 2011—without much of a plan—gave rise to the Islamic State, a terrorist group that became quick trouble for the U.S. and the Middle East for years.
Obama would later call Libya the worst mistake of his presidency. When Trump announced he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria in 2019, Cheney said that would be a “catastrophic mistake” that could empower ISIS.
Warmonger mistakes that come around, go around.
The one time Cheney opposed the possibility of an unconstitutional executive order to strike militarily was when she flip-flopped in 2013 during her U.S. Senate primary challenge to then-Republican-Senator Mike Enzi, saying Obama shouldn’t attack Syria. It was literally Cheney disagreeing with Cheney because she knew voters were mostly against another war and wanted to win, which she did not.
But if the War on Terror her father waged and Obama continued to oversee was also a war on the Constitution, Mrs. Cheney was all in on that battle too.
A good example was when Cheney was promoting and defending CIA operative Gina Haspel in 2018, Trump’s pick to head that agency. Cheney said Haspel “spent her career defending the American people” and her critics were simply “defending terrorists.”
Constitutional liberties and protections, and the United States’ moral complicity in engaging in this illegal behavior, mattered little to Cheney at the time.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden framed this debate well in 2018, “Listen, you can defend torture or you defend the Constitution. Not both. The 8th Amendment explicitly forbids torture with all forms of cruel and unusual punishment.”
“To defend torture is to attack the Constitution,” Snowden declared.
What the January 6 committee that Cheney is a part of might find regarding Trump and the awful mob attack on the Capitol remains to be seen.
But Liz Cheney portraying herself as a champion of the Constitution should be taken as seriously as Donald Trump championing civil discourse.