Shut Down the Cheney 2024 Chatter
Let’s stipulate up front that I am a huge fan of Liz Cheney. I agree with her that “Republicans cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.” I am deeply thankful for her courageous efforts to hold accountable those who enabled the attack on our democracy on January 6th. And I would most likely happily support her in any future political endeavors.
But this is not the time to play into the 2024 presidential feeding frenzy.
The correspondents and columnists and commentators are undoubtedly doing their best to bait her into it. All the big-name reporters camped out in Wyoming on Tuesday—not to watch her lose but to build their 2024 storylines. And she whetted their appetites with an announcement shortly after her loss that she converted her campaign committee to a leadership PAC named “The Great Task” to “oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president.” Accordingly, the cable shows went into overdrive, speculating about what’s next for Cheney and demanding answers from her backers about her likely strategy to win the GOP nomination.
None of this is helpful, even if she does want to run for president. Moreover, it is counterproductive to the Great Task immediately at hand: finishing her work as a leader of the House January 6th Committee. Because once someone becomes a presidential candidate, or is known even to be exploring a bid, the media reduces every one of her actions into a bare-knuckled political calculation.
Which is exactly what the Jan. 6th Committee, where Cheney has said she is doing her life’s most important work, doesn’t need.
As co-chair of the committee, Cheney has done more to explain and focus the nation on what Trump did—he “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”—than anyone on the national stage. And the committee has much still to do in the months ahead. But, the moment she’s viewed as a candidate rather than a co-chair of the committee, she’ll be chased through halls of Congress with inane questions about fundraising, polls, strategy, staff, and outrage-of-the-day minutiae. People will quit caring about what she’s saying and start judging what she’s wearing and evaluating her “likability.” Or worse, they will cast doubt on whether she is co-leading the committee with integrity or steering it toward conclusions intended to further her political ambitions.
If Cheney wants to be a presidential candidate or mount another effort to defeat Trump in 2024, she should. Later. Those questions should be decisively, definitively deferred until she has packed up her congressional office.
Her time in Congress will end quickly enough. Besides, the press already considers her a national figure. Cheney gains nothing by teasing a presidential run and subjecting herself to endless 2024 inquiries. Her final days as Wyoming’s representative should be wholly dedicated to putting the final touches on the Jan. 6th Committee’s report, issuing recommendations to Congress, and doing all she can to inform the public of the committee’s findings.
If done well, Cheney’s work on the Jan. 6th Committee will be her guaranteed legacy. Can that also serve as a foundation for something to build upon in the future? Perhaps. But both purposes cannot be openly served at once.
Cheney gave up her congressional career to pursue the truth of what happened on Jan. 6th. Any talk about 2024, at the moment, only risks obscuring the sacrifice.