The monsoon of denunciations pouring down on Liz Cheney from Democrats and Republicans — including this prominent Republican attorney blogger and some top legal names from the Bush and Reagan administrations — over her group’s and her assertion that some lawyers who’ve represented accused terrorists are somehow fellow travelers (or worse) with terrorists suggests that she is a chip off the old blockhead.
Since she started becoming a regular talking — or should we say loudly asserting and often interrupting? – – head on many talk shows, it could be argued that the Vice President’s daughter was being unfairly dissed. After all, her father is Dick Cheney, a once respectable conservative, a former Vice President, a Vice President reportedly odd-man-out during the final year of George Bush’s administration where he no longer gave the man from Wyoming permission to virtually call the policy shots — a man who became the Bush administration’s Avenger since leaving office…demonizing Barack Obama and Democrats and setting the tone for America’s talk radio political culture (not surprising for a man whose favorite interview outlets were Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News). Without a doubt, some on the left were going after her because she was the outspoken Liz Cheney, the daughter of you-know-who who kept defending her father and going after his real and perceived enemies.
But now with her group’s widely condemned ad calling some lawyers the “Al Qaeda 7” she has come into her own — most assuredly into her own. Just think about it: Republicans are accusing her of McCarthyism.
Next to some of Liz Cheney’s rhetoric, Sarah Palin is coming across as Mother Teresa.
There is a huge national appetite for such polarizing, accusatory rhetoric in American politics and the media these days: the most strident voices get the most attention, some media figures who started out center, center left or center right now find that if they go hard left or hard right they can carve out more lucrative careers. Not only is the center under fire in both parties now, but in practical electoral terms it seems to be vanishing or shifting right/left depending on the area of the country and/or the candidate.
Enter Liz Cheney.
In a sense, after the way the terrorism issue was politicized during the Bush administration, it should not come to anyone’s surprise that she via her group and talk show appearances would take the next logical step:
Now, lawyers who defended accused terrorists themselves are being accused (spin denials to the contrary) of in effect having some kind of sympathy for or loyalty to Al Qaeda. On one MSNBC show tonight, a Cheney defender insisted calling the lawyers the “Al Qaeda 7” was not questioning their loyalty at all. No…it simply was a way to demand the Obama administration reveal the backgrounds of some Obama administration Justice Department lawyers who are involved in terrorism-related policy.
Even even a jar of pickled herring at Vons Supermarket on Adams Avenue in San Diego would watch the ad (or hear those defending it and Liz Cheney) and say:
They’re accusing the lawyers of being on the side of Al Qaeda and doing it with just enough wiggle room to deny it.
But everyone — including Republicans who practice law and CHERISH they fact that they are in an honorable, crucial and venerable profession ( the zillions of lawyers jokes notwithstanding) that they try to PROTECT — knows what the ad means.
Some of the blogosphere’s most fascinating, content-offering and passionate bloggers on the left center and right are lawyers. (Go HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE..and there are many many more).
THE BAD NEWS is that Cheney has now signalled that she will be a future GOP force to be reckoned with — a highly divisive, polarizing person, sort of a (slightly) refined Ann Coulter who’ll be cheered on by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others and by some in the new media who can’t go a day without raging against what they consider to be the dumb or appeasing Democratic left. You can place your money now in Vegas that she’ll run and win some elected office.
THE GOOD NEWS is that the reaction to Cheney underscored an important fact:
There is a LIMIT in American politics and there is a kind of CENTER which can transcend actual ideology and labels.
There is common decency, even among those who in other circumstances can be the most passionate, effective and unrelenting partisans when it comes to advancing their party’s interests and ideals.
People may battle each other over the Supreme Court’s rulings, its nominees and even argue over the merits and acceptability of torture in tortured times. But even demonization and attempts to define those with whom someone may disagree have limits when it comes to American tradition and what rule of law — and how the law is supposed to function and be respected in the way it is set up to function — means.
Cheney’s group will likely get an infusion of money from those who savor this kind of rhetoric and who feel any attempt to foster consensus, encourage bipartisan consultations, and even (GASP!!) compromise on some issues are signs of political wussiness at best, and figurative and literal traitorous inclinations at worst.
But, in the end, the whole episode proves the
acorn nut doesn’t always fall far from the tree.
Although in this case it did fall even a bit more to the right.
So far to the right that many conservatives are saying it fell too far for them to be on the same side with it.
The only question that remains is this:
How long will it be before Liz Cheney gets her own radio or cable talk show?
Now you can follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.