Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Liz Cheney did not hold back when slamming both former President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in an interview this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival. Cheney, who vowed to campaign against election-denying candidates in the November election, declared that if Trump becomes the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, then “I won’t be a Republican.”
Trump supporters might dismiss Cheney as someone whose words carry little weight after being roundly defeated in her House primary in August. But keep in mind that the Wyoming representative still received nearly 30% of the vote against her Trump-backed opponent.
If that same 30% of Republicans nationwide heed Cheney’s advice and reject Trumpism at the polls in November, it will be all but impossible for Republicans to win the House of Representatives. And if a similar percentage spurns the former President, his chances of getting the 2024 Republican White House nomination in a crowded field will be greatly diminished – and that would be a great thing for those who support keeping America a democratic republic.
During her interview on Saturday, Cheney once again raised the alarm about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, sharing that “one of the things that has surprised me the most about my work on this (January 6 House) committee is how sophisticated the plan was that Donald Trump was involved in and oversaw every step of the way.”
Cheney also called out Trump’s refusal on January 6 to make a public statement urging the mob to end the attack until more than three hours had gone by, ignoring urgent entreaties from leaders in Congress, who she said “were begging him, ‘Please, tell the mob to go home.’ ” She then posed a question directly to the audience: “Just set the politics aside for a minute and think to yourself, ‘What kind of human being does that?’ “
A lifelong member of the GOP, Cheney then pledged to the crowd: “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he is not the nominee,” adding, “And if he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican.”
What a refreshing contrast with people such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on the Senate floor in February 2021 after Trump’s second impeachment trial, criticized Trump for “provoking” the January 6 attack and for his “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” But as recently as a few months ago, McConnell stated that if Trump were the GOP’s pick in 2024, “I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party.”
And Cheney was not done. Asked whether McCarthy should be the next speaker of the House, she flatly replied, “No.”
“Every single moment when our time of testing came, and Kevin had to make a decision about what he was going to do, he’s made the politically easy for him – or the politically expedient – decision instead of what the country needed,” Cheney said.
Noting that the House speaker is next in line of succession after the vice president, she said that what the country needs in an official “who’s going to be that close to the presidency” is “somebody who’s faithful to the Constitution.”
Cheney couldn’t be more right about McCarthy. He is the same person who, days after the January 6 attack, stood on the House floor and lambasted Trump, saying: “The President bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
But just two weeks later, McCarthy gave us a profile in cowardice when he traveled to Mar-a-Lago, where he posed for a photo with Trump and kissed his ring. Apparently calculating that he would need support from Trump’s base to win in 2022, McCarthy put his own ambition to become House speaker over his concerns for our republic.
What makes Cheney’s words potentially persuasive to a sizable subset of Republicans is that she’s a diehard conservative and was a vocal Trump supporter before the events of January 6.
In a July 2020 Fox News interview, she made it clear that the top priority for her and her House GOP caucus was to ensure that Joe Biden did not win, saying that she supported Trump’s agenda “something like 97% of the time.”
But to her credit, Cheney started speaking out publicly about the potential danger Trump posed to our republic – even before the 2020 election. We saw that in September 2020, when Trump refused to commit to accepting the election results if he lost, instead saying, we will “have to see what happens.”
In response, Cheney took to Twitter, writing, “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”
Obviously, today Cheney has become known as a fierce critic of Trump and other election deniers. In fact, during her interview Saturday, she vowed to campaign against Kari Lake, Arizona’s election-denying GOP gubernatorial candidate whom Trump has endorsed.
But we know that Cheney’s not alone in the GOP in holding firmly to her conservative values while staunchly supporting the rule of law and rejecting Trump and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party.
The hope now is that the same type of Republicans who supported Cheney in her primary loss turn out across the nation during this November’s election. If they choose country over party, they will be playing a big role in protecting our Constitution and our democratic republic from those who pose a threat to both.