Cheney’s last stand
She may have lost the battle, but she has not lost the war. That was the defiant message from Liz Cheney as she conceded (unsurprising and widely predicted) defeat in yesterday’s Wyoming Republican congressional primary last night. “Our work is far from over,” said the scion of the Cheney dynasty who will be out of office next year.
Cheney’s defeat means we now know the fate of all ten of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in his final days in office. Four have announced their retirement. Four have, like Cheney, been ousted in primaries and two — Washington’s Dan Newhouse and California’s David Valadao — managed to survive their primaries.
Drawing a rather self-important comparison with none other than Abraham Lincoln, Cheney noted in her speech that the greatest Republican president in America’s history “ultimately prevailed” after losing races for House and Senate seats. Shortly after the loss, it emerged that Cheney was considering a presidential bid in 2024, with the congresswoman telling NBC this morning that she will mull the move in the coming months. More immediately, a Cheney spokesman tells Politico that “in coming weeks, Liz will be launching an organization to educate the American people about the ongoing threat to our Republic, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president.”
All of this is in keeping with both the sympathetic and hostile cartoons of Cheney that have been drawn ever since she was ousted from House Republican leadership and fashioned herself as an anti-Trump crusader in her prominent role on the January 6 Committee. According to the sympathetic cartoon, Cheney is on a one-woman mission to save not just her party but her country from Donald Trump’s demagoguery. According to the more hostile version of events, the anti-Trump turn has been a cynical bid for attention. Her critics argue that, recognizing the writing was on the wall, Cheney has been doing what she needs to do to make sure she ends up with the kind of plush post-Hill gig that awaits anointed members of the Resistance.
I don’t find either of these accounts of Cheney’s actions especially satisfying, not least because it’s generally a mistake to assume that politicians see a clear distinction between self-interest and high principle. Most of them manage to get some sleep at night by blurring that line.
But even if you give Cheney the benefit of the doubt, it is difficult to find a satisfactory answer to the question of what she hopes to achieve with a presidential bid. What is the realistic best case scenario? Even a stronger-than-expected showing in a GOP primary contest would likely reveal her to be a peripheral candidate, and it may risk repeating the mistake of 2016, when a refusal for anti-Trump Republicans to consolidate behind one candidate helped him secure the nomination.
As an independent alternative candidate, Cheney stands an outside chance of proving a decisive factor in a very close race. But not necessarily in the way she might have planned. If Trump were to win the nomination in 2024, would the avowed anti-Trump candidate really draw very many votes away from the man she has made it her sole aim to take down? The more likely scenario is that she splits the anti-Trump coalition and increases his chances of winning power again. And more likely still is that an independent Cheney candidacy ends up being nothing more than an irrelevant subplot.
“I have said since Jan. 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office — and I mean it,” said Cheney yesterday. But Cheney shows little interest in courses of action that, unlike a possible 2024 bid, might actually reduce the chances of another Trump term. She doesn’t want a gentle off-ramp for her party from Trump. Instead, she wants direct confrontation with the former president, consequences be damned. That may be an admirably principled approach, but it is not one that maximizes America’s chances of avoiding the disaster about which she is so concerned.
What the Inflation Reduction Act will — and will not — do
When Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law at a White House ceremony yesterday, he described a piece of legislation it’d be almost impossible to object to: decisive action on climate change, the deficit, healthcare, prescription drug price rises and more. And all without imposing any new taxes on any household with an income of $400,000 or less.
On that final claim, the Congressional Budget Office begs to differ. The nonpartisan outfit estimates that new spending commitments in the legislation will mean $20 billion in new taxes for middle-class Americans. But surely the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce inflation? Hardly. A Wharton analysis published Friday found that the bill would reduce inflation by as little as 0.1 percentage point over the next five years.
Tough times for the KHive
Remember the KHive? They were the online community of extremely enthusiastic Kamala Harris fans (although most of them are probably the kind of person who prefers the inexplicably popular word “stan”). But what has become of the yas-queening diehards now that the vice president is widely seen to have flopped as second-in-command and is more of a liability than an asset for her party? Savor the Daily Beast’s update on the Kamala fan club, where the mood is dour. One former #KHive member who “requested to speak anonymously so as not to alienate themselves from friends made through the movement” had this to say about Harris’s time in office so far:
I would never, ever say that I regret supporting the first Black woman vice president, ever. But the disappointment is real. I was obsessed with the idea of this person who could undo the systemic, the systematic racism and sexism and heterosexism in government with one fell swoop, and now I’m thinking to myself, did I just make up a person in my head who could do those things?
Yes, anonymous former KHiver. Yes, you did.
What you should be reading today
Freddy Gray: Is Liz Cheney a ‘martyr’ to Republican values?
Peter Van Buren: The five stages of Mar-a-Lago grief
Cockburn: Unpicking the armed IRS agent hysteria
Chris Stirewalt, the Dispatch: The perils of giving up on persuasion
James Freeman, Wall Street Journal: Merrick Garland, the Washington Post and the nuclear story
Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker and Liz Sly, Washington Post: US struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion
President Biden job approval
Approve: 40.2 percent
Disapprove: 56.0 percent
Net approval: -15.8 (RCP Average)
Texas governor’s race
Abbott: 51 percent
O’Rourke: 41 percent (Dallas Morning News)