Last week, noted VichyCon, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney figuratively emerged from the political equivalent of the Compiègne Wagon and announced that she would vote to impeach President Trump, after he leaves office, for something he did not do (read Trump Vindicated? Stunning WaPo Report on Capitol Riots Timeline May Change Impeachment Trial Ball Game).
Her rationale for doing this is not all that clear. The act itself is bereft of even a whiff of principle. There is no apparent payoff. As I wrote in Liz Cheney’s Congressional Career Appears to Be Over:
One doesn’t know whether Cheney just wanted to go out of Congress with a bang; or if she seriously misread the tenor of the GOP both nationally and at home and thought this “maverick” vote was her ticket to more power; or, if being true to her heritage, she couldn’t resist getting involved in a war with no victory conditions and no way out.
Almost immediately, a petition was circulated to remove Cheney from her position as leader of the House GOP Conference. If she’d had all virtue that she’s signaled by her impeachment vote, she would have resigned when she found herself not only out-of-step with her caucus but unable to convince any but the weakest members to vote with her. The PoliticalSmartGuys™ all hinted that the removal petition was just the effort of a few wild-eyed QAnon types, but when the conference actually votes by secret ballot, Cheney would survive. As of Tuesday, over half the Republican Conference had signed the petition indicating that Cheney’s chances of survival are about the same as getting a court to hear a challenge to an apparently fraudulent election.
Then, Kevin McCarthy, leader of the GOP House minority, and noted windsock interjected himself into the issue:
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy is standing by Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, as their conference has devolved into a bitter feud following President Donald Trump’s incitement of the Capitol riot and the Democratic push to impeach him, which Cheney voted for on Wednesday.
A spokesman for McCarthy told CNN that the California Republican, who voted against impeachment, does not support efforts to remove Cheney as House Republican conference chair following a backlash over her vote.
Like Cheney’s impeachment vote, it is really difficult to see the 3-D chess in this move.
McCarthy did not vote for impeachment, so any potential for sucking up to Nancy Pelosi to curry favor is long past. Cheney has shown herself to be disloyal to her caucus and to the voters in her state. If McCarthy is even vaguely contemplating resisting anything the Democrats push forward over the next four years, he needs a leadership team that can be counted on to present a united front. With Cheney on his team, McCarthy has someone who will flip on him in an instant if she thinks she’ll get a favorable mention in a Washington Post op-ed.
Just like Cheney’s actions are best explained by her seeking approval from the Democrat elites and her contempt for her colleagues and voters, McCarthy’s actions are most easily explained by the fact that he’s weak and doesn’t have a plan. When one of his key leaders voted for impeachment, despite McCarthy voting against it, it showed that he was too weak to require them to vote in a particular way, and they didn’t respect his leadership enough to not break ranks with him. Now that the deed is done, McCarthy doesn’t have the guts to tell Cheney she needs to resign her leadership position, and he signals to his caucus that there is no penalty for disloyalty.
McCarthy, at best, is a weak reed. He is a man totally unsuited to the current political environment where the Democrats are not only intent upon racking up legislative wins that will fundamentally change the nature of the country, they are also deadly serious about marginalizing Republicans who resist them. The House GOP needs someone who will fight the Democrats day-in-and-day-out, someone who can keep his caucus in line and who commands enough respect that he can peel off Red/Purple district Democrats and make Pelosi’s House majority difficult to manage. Kevin McCarthy is not that man.