This is some interview. I just can’t figure out why she gave it.
No punches are pulled. Trump lied for two months about the election having been stolen in order to try to steal it himself, she says. The fact that he tweeted about Pence’s lack of courage *while Pence was under threat* suggests he may have intended some violent outcome, she notes. All of that being so, she concludes, he shouldn’t be leading the party going forward. She’s basically calling for him to be excommunicated from the GOP.
It’s strong-form Never Trumpism courtesy of the third-ranking Republican in the House. And for good measure, she’s even right about the crankery that ended up in the resolution passed yesterday by the Wyoming GOP censuring her:
If Trump was already angry at McCarthy for going easy on Cheney, as CNN reported on Friday, wait until he sees today’s interview.
According to a source familiar, a stir-crazy Trump has spent the last two days livid and fuming to aides and allies about what he views as a betrayal by McCarthy for standing by Cheney and not punishing her for her vote to impeach. This just over a week after McCarthy made an appeal to Trump by visiting him down at Mar-a-Lago and extracting a public commitment that the former President will work to elect a Republican House majority in 2022.
That’s what I mean when I say I can’t understand why she gave the interview. Who’s the target audience? Whom does it help? It certainly doesn’t help McCarthy, who stood by her in her leadership challenge and will now be lambasted by Trump and MAGA for having emboldened her to speak out. It doesn’t help her avoid a primary challenge from Trump fans either. It … sort of helps anti-Trump Republicans in the Senate who are on the fence about whether to convict him and may take heart from the cover Cheney’s providing them with here. But how many people are in that boat? Pat Toomey and Susan Collins? You could count the number on one hand and have fingers left over.
An obvious possibility is that she gave the interview in order to show suburban swing voters that there’s still room in the GOP for Trump skeptics. But how many of them will remember this episode 18 months from now? And if Cheney ends up being successfully primaried, won’t that show those same voters before Election Day that there actually *isn’t* room in the party for them?
Another possibility suggested to me by a friend is that her choice of networks for this interview was carefully considered. Maybe she’s trying to reach Fox News viewers, who seldom get to hear the viewpoint that Trump did something singularly terrible with his “stop the steal” campaign. I can’t believe that Cheney believes Fox fans are persuadable on the question of Trump’s infallibility, though. The network spent most of the past four years making the case that he can do no wrong. One interview isn’t going to counterprogram that.
All I can think is that she’s entered the same zone as Adam Kinzinger: DGAF mode, in which she’s calculated that MAGA fans couldn’t hate her more than they already do and therefore there’s no penalty to her in speaking her mind forthrightly. They’ll be spoiling to beat her in her primary if she spends the next year and a half ripping on Trump and they’ll be spoiling to beat her in her primary if she utters not a single unkind word about him henceforth. So why not let it rip? Case in point: More than once in this interview she says that House Republicans should have dealt with Marjorie Taylor Greene instead of punting the issue to Democrats, which is not a position one should take if you’re looking to soothe the populist beast. She could have dodged on Greene by saying, “Well, she promised not to repeat the things she’s said before so let’s give her a second chance,” but clearly Cheney thinks her own caucus should have stripped Greene of her committee assignments. That’s DGAF mode. We’ll see how it works out for her.