Daddy’s Girl: Liz Cheney, Me and History

WASHINGTON — Daggers are out for Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday, when House Republicans will rid her of a leadership post.

Sorry, Daddy’s girl. No, really. We have a history.

Evolution at work: A Cheney told the truth in public.

The Wyoming congresswoman, 54, took a lonely stand by defying former President Donald Trump’s “big lie,” as she put it, that the 2020 election victory was stolen. There’s no room for truth in her party.

Archconservative Cheney is getting canceled.

Cheney got elected to Congress in 2016. Ambitious, she got the only plum in the House for Republican women. (There are only 26.) Now Cheney is an inconvenient woman. Another waits in the wings. An unceremonious end to her rise.

“Daddy’s girl” Liz has former Vice President Dick Cheney with her every step of the way. The dark, mendacious father is 80.

Her dad was the Wyoming congressman; the state only has one seat. She’s following his footsteps, the oldest daughter in a family with no sons.

We share Wisconsin in common.

It was no ordinary time and place: Madison in the late ’60s.

As it happens, we were little ones in University of Wisconsin housing, within walking distance. Our family lived in faculty houses; hers lived in graduate student apartments.

Lake Mendota was a beautiful blue. People swam at Picnic Point and the Memorial Union Terrace.

Liz is a lot like her dad, plain in the cut of her face or if you picture him with a full head of hair. She has his abrasive manner and give-no-quarter style. She ardently defends the Bush-Cheney administration’s ill-fated war in Iraq, based on the false grounds of weapons of mass destruction.

That war of aggression was one of America’s worst foreign policy blunders. Another Bush-Cheney war of aggression was, of course, Afghanistan. They say it’s almost over now, 20 years later.

The Madison connection turns on the futile lost war in Vietnam. Dick Cheney got one draft deferment after another. He never enlisted in the military. And he never got the Ph.D. he was supposed to be working on. Lynne Cheney, his wife, did earn a Ph.D. in English.

Madison was in the vanguard of the anti-Vietnam War movement, which swept over the nation. The state capital was shaking and rumbling in a culture of dissent. The war was coming to your door if you were a young man.

The war was all the grown-ups talked about in Madison’s university houses.

Students and faculty joined in a large, spirited force of barricades, sit-ins and marches. A documentary called it “The War at Home.”

Our neighbor, sociologist Maurice Zeitlin, was a fiery speaker in the struggle. We kids went along and learned the folk songs of protest. My mother’s hair blew in the wind.

The Cheneys were likely the only young family not to show up. They were strangers.

I learned young that the government was lying to us.

There came an autumn day in 1967 that author David Maraniss chronicled in a masterful book, “They Marched Into Sunlight.”

Dow Chemical Co., the maker of napalm, was coming to campus to recruit. Major scenes of resistance took place at Bascom Hall, atop the campus hill.

Police used tear gas and billy clubs on droves of peaceful protestors.

Dick Cheney found the anti-war movement “a pain in the neck.”

Maraniss wrote, “But in the use of tear gas … this demonstration was a first, a prelude to all that was to come at Wisconsin and other campuses over the next four years.”

The seeds sown in Madison, where the Progressive Party was founded, grew like prairie wildflowers.

My subversive girlhood shattered official truths. Richard Nixon’s presidency only confirmed this.

Wisconsin had a strong effect on Dick Cheney, radicalized the other way. He was old even when he was young. By the grace of Donald Rumsfeld, he rose fast as President Gerald Ford’s top aide.

Cheney fiercely upholds presidential power. For wars to be waged, lies could be told. No vice president violated so many norms as a warmonger, leaving shambles in his wake.

As for little Liz Cheney, Madison explains everything. She breathed in its progressive essence by the banks of beautiful Lake Mendota.


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