April 7, 2023 | OPINION | By Theo Tannahill
Liz Cheney, according to her Twitter bio, is a “Proud rodeo mom, soccer mom, baseball mom, hockey mom, constitutional conservative.”
Her new label as the Colorado College commencement speaker for the class of 2023, however, wasn’t as predictable. The former Wyoming congresswoman has not exactly aligned herself with the values that CC promotes. Cheney was chosen for the sake of difficult conversations, but graduation is not the time or place for those conversations.
CC prides itself on its progressive goals, so why are we choosing someone that represents something entirely different?
Honestly, it is difficult to tell which values Cheney has aligned herself with at all. She is a product of the old-guard establishment that allowed President Donald Trump to take power, but she is also one of the few that finally acted once that power had been taken too far. There is significant credit where credit is due.
Her willingness to knowingly sacrifice her political career to lead the Jan. 6 hearings and actively speak out against Trump and domestic extremism deserves recognition. I believe she has a stronger backbone than any elected Republican in congress. I welcome her to speak at CC for a lecture, but not at an event that is indeed to embrace the unique culture of the college that she is inherently antithetical to.
What CC failed to recognize was the context of Cheney’s actions. She accomplished what should have been the normal reaction to an insurrection fueled by a sitting president of any party. This doesn’t erase her past, and certainly doesn’t make her suitable to speak at an event made to be a celebration, especially at a school that claims to be progressive.
Her defiance of Trump, though, has excited centrist Democrats everywhere who forgot a little too quickly about the history of her entire political career and voting records. CC has taken this bait hook, line, and sinker and seems to believe she is “one of the good ones.”
The collective lack of memory caused by Trump’s extreme deviance from presidential norms has led many to believe that any anti-Trump republican falls into that category of “the good ones.” I don’t believe that they do. Let’s look a little more at what Liz Cheney believes.
It’s almost too easy for me to reference her father’s personal shredding of the constitution, so I’ll mainly avoid that except for two things; she has always defended the invasion of Iraq and the killing of 200 thousand innocent Iraqi civilians, and she still supports the torture conducted during the war. I’m not sure that Trump’s lies are very different from those that led to the invasion, except that the damaged country was halfway across the globe.
Her opposition to Trump, too, seems to have only happened when he decided that elections were optional. Up until Trump left office, Cheney had a congressional voting record that was 93 percent aligned with the president.
For many people, Trump has always been wrong. Not to Liz. She supported Trump in 2016 and defended Trump’s boasts about sexually assaulting women, describing it as “better” than Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.
She consistently voiced her opposition to same-sex marriage, even as her sister married a woman and her father pulled back his previous disapproval of it. She did show a changed opinion in a 60 Minutes interview, but she still voted against an amendment to the Civil Rights act that would have added protections based on sexual orientation.
Why CC failed to consider that immediate grounds to disqualify Cheney is genuinely shocking to me, considering the makeup of the college. If they really wanted a Cheney, maybe they should have chosen her sister Mary, who has had to endure her family choosing electability over her human rights since she came out as lesbian. She, too, is a CC grad.
In some cases, Liz Cheney has even been pulled to the right of the mainstream conservative party, refusing to dismiss the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya because she believed people were “uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”
How that proves he was born in Kenya is slightly unclear, but it’s great to hear that Ms. Cheney has, in the words of CC, “pursued courageous conversations”.
Clearly, she has a history of focusing on those courageous conversations, like preventing gay marriage and promoting the birther movement, a conspiracy that disputed Barack Obama’s citizenship and attempted to discredit his run for presidency. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the birther movement falls under what CC would consider anti-racism. Not that CC really has done anything more than consider anti-racism.
To me, it seems as if CC has fallen trap to recency bias. A positive view would be that they failed to do complete research, choosing her because of her relative fame and CC grad status. The other option, though, is that they chose her because of the controversy. In a difficult school year for all of us, the administration yet again chose institutional exposure over inviting someone who reflects the values of the student body.
Now, graduation will be more of an ideological battleground than a celebration. With rumors and the likelihood of an upcoming Cheney presidential bid becoming apparent, my hope would be that she uses her time to applaud this year’s graduates rather than herself. I also hope that my commencement speaker isn’t George W. Bush.