The Trial of Liz Cheney
..and the future of the GOP
Happy Monday to all my beautiful babies, and I hope all the Moms are recovering from drinking six (deserved) barrels of wine. Let’s dive right in to the good stuff, because there is a lot to cover.
The biggest story in Washington last week and even over the weekend was/is the Republican Party’s decision to remove Liz Cheney from House leadership. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this movie played out earlier in the year and Cheney was able to survive. The difference this time around is that the remake is bloodier and the director is Pro-Trump Italian Reggae singer, Rasta Primavera.
To sum it up quickly: Liz Cheney - the daughter of former Vice-President and real-life version of The Penguin, Dick Cheney -refuses to say that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump, and therefore she is not fit to lead the GOP. If that sounds too simplistic, you can keep reading, but I guarantee you that is the entire episode wrapped up in a nutshell.
Following the attack on the Capitol by Vanilla ISIS on January 6th, Cheney was one of the first people in GOP leadership to become a vocal critic of President Trump’s actions after the election. She put the blame squarely on him for inciting the insurrection and for refusing to recognize Joe Biden as the President-elect. At the time, Cheney actually had a lot of support within the GOP. It probably feels like a million years ago now, but both the impeachment vote and trial vote of President Trump were the most bipartisan in history. So, what happened? The simplest explanation is that Donald Trump won; none of the facts have changed about the 2020 election, nor has the narrative about January 6th. The major change has been that the GOP has decided the insurrection was basically OK, and Joe Biden really isn’t the dutifully elected President of the United States.
That is perhaps best exemplified by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, currently known as the most cowardly man in politics. Here is what McCarthy actually said on January 6th, 2021:
The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump to accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.
Here is a more up-to-date image of McCarthy:
The shift from the GOP since January 6th has been notable. At the time, and even during the impeachment trial, a lot of Republicans were openly discussing the prospect of moving on from Trump. If you want to know how that discussion is currently going, I invite you to look over to Arizona, where the State GOP is currently auditing the vote (again) in an attempt to find paper ballots for Joe Biden made out of bamboo (since they came from China).
Cheney herself has highlighted the danger of endorsing Trump’s conspiracy theories. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, she wrote:
In public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution (my emphasis).
While I think it’s great that Cheney has held her ground with the full knowledge that she is going to pay for it (she is almost certainly going to lose her position in leadership soon), her belief in a GOP that exists apart from Trump is a delusion.
I have personally come to a sobering realization over the past few years: The center-right vision of a dynamic, small “c” conservative Republican Party that looks a little bit more like the Tories of England than the (failed) Presidency of George W. Bush has been a LARP for about 20 years. I am one of the seven people outside of Washington, D.C., who wrote-in Jon Huntsman in 2012, supported Jeb Bush in 2016, and ultimately voted for John Kasich as a last-ditch attempt to stop Trump in the GOP primary. I have been living in a fantasy world.
There is no Republican Party that exists apart from Trump or Trumpism. If you want an example, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger - one of the few House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump - has likened the current GOP to the Titanic (the boat, not the movie). Kinzinger is probably right, but it doesn’t matter. He, like Cheney, has been attacked by his colleagues for merely acknowledging Biden’s win. A good counter to Kinzinger is Elise Stefanik, who is poised to take Cheney’s position in the House. Stefanik (like Kinzinger) got into office as a moderate, level-headed Republican that many in the Party hoped would become a rising star suited for higher office.
Stefanik was initially hyper-critical of Trump, calling him someone whose views were “not who we are as a country.” Stefanik has indeed become a rising star in the GOP because of her impassioned defense of Trump during the (first) impeachment trial and her endorsement of the election fraud delusion. If you want an idea of where the GOP is headed, just look at Stefanik, and then take a look at Liz Cheney. Here is the kicker/problem: Stefanik has conceded that she changed her tune on Trump after speaking with the super pro-Trump voters in her district. The leadership in the GOP is merely reflecting the wills and whims of the GOP base, which is currently one of the most ill-informed and fantasy-driven constituencies in all of modern political history. If you want a good look at the GOP base in a nutshell:
Who is the leader of that Party, Liz Cheney or Donald Trump?
I will have some should-reads relating to this topic below.
Alright, so big headline number two is the mediocre jobs report from Friday. The summary: The U.S. created 266K jobs in April. In a normal time, that would be a good report. However, in the middle of an economic recovery where economists were predicting around 1m jobs, it doesn’t look so good.
As someone who has spent a long time looking at/waiting for/reading a million stupid blog posts about these jobs reports, I can really say that freaking out about a single report is a bad idea. There were times in the Obama recovery where a jobs report that showed “zero” new job gains generated countless headlines about a stalled recovery. That lasted for a few days, and then the following month the number was revised upwards, which is something that could happen here. We pay for the immediacy of the jobs report (it wraps up an entire month of data in literally the first week of every month) with lots of inaccuracy. Things can, and likely will change.
A suspected culprit for the poor report is that expanded unemployment benefits are keeping people from jobs on the lower-end of the spectrum. But some economists don’t think so:
Another (and I think more likely) explanation is that a lot of people are still unsure about what to do since their kids are still at home:
All in all, I’d still wait for the next report before you freak out. However, a key thing to note: To file for unemployment insurance, you have to say routinely that you are willing, ready, and able to work, and that you are not turning down job offers on the regular. If people really were able to fill job openings and were just opting to stay home, you’d see a rising number of denied unemployment claims. We haven’t seen that yet, so it’s possible we just got a noisy, one-month report.
Again, some should-reads on the jobs report will make their appearance below.
Last big story: Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. Circuit called bullshit on Bill Barr’s summary of the Muller Report. If you want a really quick summary of what happened: When Robert Mueller finished his report, he turned it over to (then) Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr summarized the report, said that it showed “no collusion,” and that while Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether or not President Trump obstructed justice, Mueller left that conclusion up to the Attorney General and Barr concluded that Trump did not. Barr said - at the time- that this was based on DOJ understanding of obstruction, and Jackson has basically said, “Yeah, it was really only you who said that and no one else.”
Is it old news that Bill Barr protected Donald Trump and lied about the Mueller Report? Yes. Does it matter at all right now? Not really. But one thing I want to push back on: A lot of liberals have said this is an indication that Judge Jackson is going to discipline Barr in some way, and has called him a liar that no one can trust. I have read orders where judges severely criticize government officials and accuse them of serious, illegal wrongdoing and this is not one of them. Jackson is simply saying that Barr’s explanation of his actions does not pass the smell test.
OK, some should-reads on Liz Cheney:
Susan Glasser - a returning Jackal Champion - has a great piece about how the GOP chose to embrace The Big Lie.
Related to my pining for the Tories above, E.J. Dionne has a lesson from England.
The Washington Post has a great, detailed read on the making of the voter fraud myth.
If you want to be even more depressed, read this piece on how Trump is plotting his return as the leader of the GOP.
Here is former GOP House Leader Newt Gingrich being a big dumb idiot.
Now some should-reads on the meh jobs report:
Paul Krugman is always someone worth listening to, especially when he is warning about inflation.
Some of the issues with the jobs report seem like just common sense thinking to me: If you are paying people a lot of money in unemployment insurance, then it literally pays to be unemployed. Christian Weller punches that sort of thinking right in the head.
A great read from my friend Brad Kramer on how we all can be more welcoming to refugees.
Liz Bruenig has a fantastic piece on her choosing to become a mother in her 20s.
Finally, I got my second shot of the Moderna vaccine on Wednesday. I felt very few side effects aside from fatigue and headaches. I am incredibly thankful for these vaccines, which really are miracles. I would encourage every single one of my readers to get vaccinated. I simultaneously acknowledge that Big Pharma is not benevolent, and in many cases they are malicious (see: the opioid crisis). However, given all of the evidence we have seen, these vaccines are clearly our way back to normality. Get the jab, tell your friends to get it, and if there are people in your life who are on the fence and you think you can make a difference, talk to them.
I am formally complaining to Substack about their lack of a long dash option. ————- Garbage.
This is seriously happening.